Two Boys, One Chair

Ideas for Use:

Preservice Education

I always used this video in my Foundations of Education class. It provides a powerful example of scaffolding young students to successfully solve a conflict. Using skillful questioning and ideas from other students, the teacher allows two students to solve their problem. Later, she has them reflect on what happened and share with other students during a class meeting.

This gem shows that capturing opportunities for the children to problem solve and allowing time for them to do it is more effective than an adult always deciding. Asking questions breeds children’s thinking and problem solving, in accord with theories of John Dewey.

In advance of this film, the student teachers have read several articles by Dewey and undergone an experiential activity that demonstrates the value of generating questions in the process of their own problem solving. Thus, the student teachers not only read about and discuss Dewey’s ideas, but also they personally experience them and view a video showing a potent classroom example.

  • Comment from Karen Benson, faculty member in the multiple subjects teacher education program at California State University, Sacramento.

I also used this video in my Pedagogy class to illustrate conflict resolution, sharing and trust. This video is the companion video to “Class Caterpillar” wherein Kindergarten students are involved in a collaborative art project. During the making of a class caterpillar, two boys choose to occupy the same chair, each refusing to move. This video effectively shows that by getting the students to talk with each other, and by taking a suggestion from another student, the teacher enables the boys to solve their issue in a way that leads to greater cooperation. Instead of the teacher stepping in to solve the problem, she trusts and allows the boys to try to work it out themselves. The two boys go beyond solving the problem of one chair, and share the making of their segment of the caterpillar together as well.

  • Comment from Joy Pelton, faculty member in the multiple subjects teacher credential program at the California State University, Sacrament

Collegial study and inservice education

I have used this video several times both for inschool staff development and continuing education classes. Each time this video is shown teachers invariably discuss how tempting it would be to solve the problem for the two boys. However, the video clearly demonstrates that when teachers take time to let students solve their own problems they learn the valuable friendship skills they will need for the rest of their lives. This video shows a teacher balancing her need for completing a project with students’ needs for autonomy and competence in solving their own problems.

Comment from Marie-Claire Wonacott, teacher, Lot Whitcomb Elementary School, Milwaukie, Oregon.

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