Read-aloud event promotes student conflict resolution


A read-aloud event at Clayton School this month is teaching students to own their problems without going to their teacher for all of their mediation.

Cheryl Smith, who guides the “Response to Intervention” effort at the kindergarten-through-grade eight school, said that 22 guest readers will be reading to students in every classroom to help teach problem-solving skills.

This is the third annual Making a Difference Read Aloud event. The event begins at noon Oct. 17 at the school, 8970 York St. in Thornton. It’s part of Colorados Conflict Resolution month.

All of the books are age appropriate and deal with conflict and resolution. The readers also use guiding questions to create a conversation about the books with the students.

“The kids get really excited. They love the opportunity to have a guest reader and they love the conversation,” said Smith. “The readers love interacting with the kids and reading literature that is not what they normally read. For example, our middle school students love the book Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

Smith said the program is so popular that there is a wait list every year for the volunteers who want to read to the students. This year’s volunteers also include members of the Academy High School football team, their principal and their assistant principal.

The books the volunteers read are all themed around the concept of conflict resolution, and the stories all lead into discussions about ways to solve conflict between the readers and the students.

Conflict resolution

Janice Phelps, Director of Clayton Partnership School, said it’s one part of a larger effort to promote respect and conflict resolution skills among students.

“The old way of handling conflict showed a need for change,” Phelps said. “The students expressed conflict, blame and lack of responsibility. They didn’t know how to interact.”

The Clayton School process relies on student circles in each classroom to build relationships and resolve conflicts. Circles ask five questions to guide their discusisons: What happened; What were particpants thinking about at the time; What have they thought about since then; Who has been affected; and what needs to be done to make things right?

“Students are in charge of themselves and choosing how they can do community service to make things right in their community for anyone they may have affected with their actions,” Smith said.

For example, one student who was throwing food in the cafeteria chose to stay in for recess for a week and sweep the cafeteria, she said.

“We bring it back to choice. There are many opportunities every day to make a choice,” said Smith.

Students mgiht even choose to suspend themselves she said.

“We don’t want to suspend them, but they may choose that,” Smith said. “As the students are making choices about their lives, they are learning that they are not a victim, they are in control and they won’t make that choice again.”

Clayton students had positive thins to say, based on what they’d learned read alouds they have been involved with since 3rd grade.

“When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say `Why me?’ Say `Try me!’” said Giovanni Camunez, 5th grader.

Smith said the lessons continue well past Clayton’s doors. One former student told her it made a difference for him.

“A student we worked heavily with in middle school walked in one day with his high school ROTC group to hang the flag,” said Smith. “He walked over to me and personally thanked me for all we did for him at Clayton three years prior.”

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