Problem solving skills are vital to all aspects of a child’s school day. When teaching problem solving skills, it’s important to determine where the child is having the most difficulty, take a step back, and build from there. Here are some of my tips for teaching problem solving skills to students in speech therapy.
Tip #1 for Teaching Problem Solving
Understand the process. Successful problem solving is a process that begins with identifying that there is a problem, thinking through possible solutions, and then selecting and implementing the best solution to that problem. This process must begin with a child being able to understand the idea of problem and solution. This is a great starting point for students who need instruction in the most basic aspect of problem solving. I do this by providing opportunities for them to identify pictures of problems and pictures of solutions and match them together.
Use familiar problems/situations first. It’s going to be much more difficult for a child to identify a particular problem if it’s related to an experience they know nothing about. When teaching problem solving, I prefer to start out with situations that may be familiar to my students, such as having a broken pencil, feeling sick, spilling a drink, etc. These are great types of problems to begin with while building the foundation of problem solving skills. You can move on to different types of situations/problems as their skill develops.
Practice coming up with multiple solutions to a problem. When teaching problem solving skills, it’s important to practice thinking through multiple possible solutions…even if they are not all good solutions. We want children to be able to think through problems and eventually be able to choose the BEST solutions to a particular problem. For example, if the problem is a spilled drink, possible solutions could be to leave the mess and walk away, or to clean it up. Talking through each of these possible actions is great practice for children. You can discuss situations when walking away and leaving the mess might be a necessary solution, versus when cleaning up the mess would be the best solution.
Be willing to accept different solutions. Often times when teaching problem solving skills, a child may present a solution I didn’t think of. Rather than saying it’s wrong, I allow them to explain why it could be a good solution. If a student can provide an acceptable explanation, it may be a good solution. We want our students to think through situations and sometimes they may see something differently than us. This is okay!
Gradually move away from pictures. It’s so great to start out using pictures when teaching problem solving. Pictures are a great way for students to really visualize and think through a solution. It’s important to move beyond pictures, though, and work on identifying problems in paragraphs/stories. Help students listen/look for problems in books, fairy tales, fables, etc. Identify problems and talk through possible solutions. Use books/stories they are using in their classroom when at all possible.
Teaching problem solving skills is so important. We want to make sure our students understand what problems and solutions are, be able to think through multiple possible solutions, and explain why a solution might be a good one.
Here are some files you can use for teaching problem solving:
- Problem Solving Visuals (PDF)
Color Coded Matching (PDF)
- Matching (PDF)
Problem-Solving Real Photos (Members Only PDF)
Multiple Choice Selections for Photos (Members Only PDF)
Problem Solving Scenarios (Paragraphs) (Members Only PDF)
Hypothetical Real-Life Problem Situations (Members Only PDF)
- Recording Sheets (Members Only PDF)
- 4×6 Storage Box Covers (Members Only PDF)
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