Make rock, paper, scissors a habit

Most problems on the playground start as minor conflicts. We’ve found that consistent use of the game rock paper scissors reduces conflicts. For example, if there’s a disagreement about whether a ball hit the line in a game of foursquare, the students play one round of rock-paper-scissors and the more successful player’s perspective is honored. It is a way to ‘keep the game moving’ and resolve minor conflicts without the intervention of an adult because rock-paper-scissors acts like a referee. Sometimes referees are right, sometimes they are wrong. Either way, the referee is needed to play the game.

Try it on! Start using rock-paper-scissors as a school-wide strategy for resolving minor conflicts. To do so, consider these steps:

  1. Teach the game to students and set clear, simple rules for using it, like playing one round only. Teaching means actually teaching students how to use the game to resolve a conflict, not just how to play the game.
  2. Practice making a habit of using the game to resolve conflicts by playing games that heavily incorporate rock-paper-scissors to determine what happens next, like Switch or Ro-sham-bo Relay.
  3. Communicate why, how, when and where to use it. You could give students the example of using it at recess when arguments occur about whether somebody was out during a game. 
  4. Promote use with students through verbal and visual cues like posters, announcements, and peer or adult role modeling. Adults can also promote using rock paper scissors to resolve small conflicts inside the class, such as which student gets to be first in line, first to the water fountain, etc.

What you can try this week:

If you’re not ready to implement the strategy at the school-wide level, consider trying it with a specific class or recess period this week. Here’s one approach:

  1. Play the game Switch or Ro-Sham-Bo Relay with your students. Teach rock-paper-scissors (step 1) at the beginning of the game, explaining that it helps to “keep the game moving”.
  2. Practice by playing several rounds of Switch or Ro-sham-bo Relay (step 2). These games help create the habit in students to use rock-paper-scissors in order to determine a path forward during a game.
  3. Identify times when you will communicate (step 3) your expectations with students about using rock-paper-scissors. Will you gather students before recess? Will you ask students when they used rock-paper-scissors after recess or at the end of the school day?
  4. Make a plan to promote rock-paper-scissors during recess (step 4). Start or join a game of foursquare and remind students that they can play one round of rock-paper-scissors if they aren’t sure which player should go to the recycle line. As you play, make sure you are modeling use of the tool as well.

Print out this poster and get started!