January 22, 2015

Teaching Students How to Size Up a Problem

Get it here!
I haven't advertised a TPT item in a while, so I thought I would showcase one of the

more popular items in my store: a "Problem Solving Pack" created to show students how to accurately define the size of a problem and to teach basic critical thinking and beginning problem-solving skills. 

I have a lot of kiddos on my caseload that have a complete meltdown when they lose a game or during some other trivial mishap, which is what inspired me to create this resource. Since this is usually an area of need for students on the ASD spectrum or those with social communication disorder, most SLPs can probably find value in this packet.

Problem sizes are grouped by little, medium, and big, and in order to fit a particular size, students are encouraged to think of the four aspects that make up a problem:

(1) the number of people involved in or affected by the problem
(2) the duration of the problem
(3) the level of physical danger involved
(4) the time it takes to solve this problem

I assigned numerical values to each characteristic, which helps students "calculate" the actual problem size in a very structured manner. Students can then fill out an accompanying worksheet to help them organize and guide their thought process.
Overall, this packet includes the following PDF files:
• A collection of 120 premade problem scenarios in two separate formats (as 3.6” X 2.6” cards as well as in black and white list format)
• 9 blank cards to add your own scenarios as they occur in your students’ lives

• A step by step lesson plan / presentation to go over with your students
• A letter-sized visual poster to remind students of the characteristics of each problem size (both color and black and white)
• A worksheet template to help guide students through analyzing a problem's size
• 4 sample worksheets to guide the teacher / therapist on how the questions should be answered

I created and improved upon this packet throughout the last school year as I was developing and using these lessons with my own students in a social skills group and small group therapy setting. It really seemed to work for many of them – I, as well as other support staff have noted some marked improvements in target students’ reasoning and behavior control skills about daily challenges.

I have used these materials with 1st through 5th graders (although the worksheet is geared towards my older groups), but will work well for middle school and high school students as well due to the relative complexity of the subject. You can also just use the problem solving cards as a quick therapy activity to work on identifying and solving problems. 

For some other great resources on problem-solving using the four problem characteristics, visit Jill Kuzma's blog. There are also some great resources on Pinterest. Problem-solving is such a basic skill that we take for granted. It is important to remember that many of our students need guided teaching to improve and master this concept.

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