The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Stop, Walk, Talk v 2.0

Way back when I first began teaching at Wiley, I was introduced to a peer conflict resolution tool called “Stop, Walk, Talk.” I felt that it was a wonderful way for students to solve minor problems on their own and to build their own confidence in being able to respond appropriately to slight annoyances and other aggravations.

I still feel this way, but over the years I and several of my colleagues have felt that we needed to tweak the system a bit. For example, the original SWT model instructed students to tell a classmate to stop doing something and to use a universal hand gesture when doing so. Much to our consternation, this hand gesture, the American Sign Language sign for “stop”, has been used as a way to heighten conflict, rather than decrease it. My fourth grade partner and I talked about it and came up with a modification that we wanted to try with our classes this year. The building PBIS team (of which I am a part) supported this change, and so we have been piloting it in fourth grade. The process is similar, but with some key differences:

  1. Stop -When you are feeling angry, frustrated, annoyed, or know someone is pushing your “anger buttons,” stop yourself and take three deep breaths.
  2. Walk – Walk away from the situation or the person. If you are in the classroom and there is a designated space, go there. If you are in the hall, go to the end of the line. If you are on the playground, just go somewhere else. The goal is to simply remove yourself from the situation.
  3. Talk – Once you are calm and away from the situation/person, talk to yourself and make a plan to address the issue.

While these are the three formal steps of Stop, Walk, Talk, there is of course one fourth step that is crucial: Fix it! Follow your plan and ask yourself if the plan worked. If it didn’t, talk to a teacher or trusted adult and ask for help. We have told the students that they do not have to talk to a teacher or other trusted adult unless the problem persists but, of course, they are always welcome to share with us how they used their problem solving skills successfully!

As much as I appreciated the SWT model when we first started using it three years ago, I love our new version even more because it places the responsibility for dealing with minor issues on the student. I cannot make anyone else do anything. My students cannot make anyone else do anything. But I can control what I do and they can control what they do. This goes along very well with a common mantra in my room: you are responsible for you. So far this year, we have seen wonderful results from this updated version of Stop, Walk, Talk. The PBIS team will be sharing it with the rest of the staff soon and then we will most likely announce it to the entire school at our monthly Coyote College assembly before the end of the semester.


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