Unit Support


During daily life, whether at home or at school, conflicts naturally arise that require the use of effective problem-solving skills. Students who learn to figure out solutions to problems on their own are better able to work and play with others. The ability to solve difficult situations also builds positive self-esteem, self-confidence, and social relationships. Problem-solving skills empower students to think about themselves and others, which encourages the development of empathy. As students acknowledge and respond to each others’ feelings, they begin to demonstrate respect and consideration for individual differences and alternative points of view. When students are able to stop their actions and consider alternatives, they are developing the ability to self-regulate—an important skill used in social interactions, as well as in thinking.

In this unit, the Read Aloud and two Shared Reading texts present common, everyday problems that would be encountered by most students. As the texts are explored, students are encouraged to evaluate how the problems were solved and to generate alternative solutions to the social issues and conflicts, employing both empathy and respect for others.

The Read Aloud text, The Very Cranky Bear, focuses on individual strengths and how these can be used to help solve problems. Students will infer the feelings of others by reading facial expressions and body language, and they will identify and communicate their own feelings in problem situations.

The Shared Reading text, Problem at the Park, demonstrates how an everyday conflict between children can be happily resolved by communicating feelings. The other Shared Reading text, The Gingerbread Kids, explores a situation where someone is feeling left out. Three possible solutions are provided and readers are left to choose for themselves how the problem was solved, evaluating the effectiveness of each solution.

Opportunities for oral language activities and playful learning are woven throughout the unit as students discuss problem scenarios and solutions, dramatize showing feelings, role-play problem-solving situations, and use puppets and masks to act out alternative solutions.

Contextual Working with Words lessons accompany each Shared Reading text and can be done with the class or with a small group of students with similar needs. A brief text-type writing study invites students to write a simple account of how they solved a problem (Retell: Personal Account). The mentor text to support this writing project is Problem at the Park.

For details about the unit, see the Solving Problems Plan-at-a-Glance Chart.

Inquiry Question

A critical thinking approach is stimulated when a key question focuses our thoughts. This inquiry question can motivate us to ask new questions, to seek possible answers, and to problem-solve to see which solutions may work best. It draws us deeper into an issue and helps us to make connections. The inquiry question for this unit is “How can we solve problems?”

Students explore the inquiry question by identifying problem situations and considering various ways to solve problems. Throughout the unit, students will focus on positive conflict resolution and effective communication with others. Problem-solving strategies will include: identifying the problem, discussing ideas and feelings, deciding on options to solve the problem, identifying consequences, making decisions and choices, and evaluating solutions. Through discussions and teacher-questioning, students’ thinking will be supported, challenged, and extended to encourage independent solving of problems. As the unit concludes, students will be able to respond to the inquiry question by providing positive suggestions for solving problems that occur in daily circumstances at home, at school, and in other situations.

ELL Note

This inquiry unit is extremely useful for English Language Learners (ELLs) as it promotes social skills required by all children when engaged in play-based activities in the classroom. The unit emphasizes an understanding of others and fosters respect for individual differences. By labelling and identifying various feelings and problem situations, ELLs can learn the vocabulary to express what they want and how they are feeling so that all students can participate cooperatively.

Access ELLs background knowledge prior experience by asking them if they are familiar with any of the animals from The Very Cranky Bear, if they have ever visited an amusement park or fair, and if they have ever felt left out of an activity at home or at school.

ELLs might be encouraged to practise reading the two Shared Reading texts, Problem at the Park and The Gingerbread Kids, and use Wikki Stix or another method to circle and underline words or to match words and pictures.

Enlist the help of parent volunteers or students who speak the same language as the ELLs. They can partner with students and together they can discuss the book/pictures in their own languages and work together on the activities. While listening to the words of the Shared Reading texts on the Media Key or online, the ELLs’ partners can simultaneously point to the written words, establishing a sound/symbol correspondence.

Words for feelings from students’ first languages can be illustrated and labelled on sticky notes, added to the Working with Words display, and then explained and pronounced by the ELLs.

Deeper confidence and familiarity with the text will enhance ELLs experience of the text. Display sentence strips on a pocket chart entitled ‘Say This!’ These sentences can be taken from the text or created (e.g., ‘It’s my turn now.’ ‘Now it’s your turn.’ ‘Come play with us.’). Title another pocket chart ‘Don’t Say This!’ and there display sentences expressing sentences to avoid (e.g., ‘You can’t play with us!’ ‘Go away!’ ‘You don’t know this game!’) Encourage ELLs to perform puppet skits at the drama centre that use one or more of the sentences. After recess, physical education, or small group activities, discuss the use of ‘Say This’ and ‘Don’t Say This’ expressions, praising students for having used any sentences on the ‘Say This’ chart.

You may choose to modify the assessment rubric by reducing the number of expectations to be covered. The wording of the expectations can also be modified to read, ‘begins to respond appropriately to questions,’ and so on.

Students learn English by looking and listening, so include non-verbal activities in order to promote eye contact and a keen ear. Encourage ELLs to use puppets to assist them in dramatic play, using their own scenarios or acting out scenarios from the book. These skits can be performed with a partner in their first language, sprinkled with some new English vocabulary. Small toy animals can be put in the sandbox as props and the students can dramatize The Very Cranky Bear.


You will have numerous opportunities to observe students as they inquire through talk, play, dramatization, movement, and artwork.

  • The Inquiry Assessment provides a checklist for you to observe and note student engagement with, and understanding of, the inquiry topic.

You may also want to monitor other developmental areas during the unit. Choose one or more of these assessment tools:

  • Use the Working with Words Checklists (see the Kindergarten Working with Words Guide, pp. 97–105) to record observed development in phonemic/phonological awareness, letter recognition, knowledge of high-frequency words, word solving and building skills, and the use of context (language predictability).