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A-Module 4A Normal Conflict Part 1

  • We will understand and determine the difference between aggressive, passive and assertive behavior
  • We will explain how and when to use an “I” Message
  • We will demonstrate our understanding of active listening
  • Review previous learning. “What are the key elements of bullying? How is it different than normal conflict?”
  • We have discussed what you should do if you witness bullying.
  • We expect you to be an Upstander and we have discussed the actions an Upstander can take.


  • Post the three terms on the board:
    1. aggressive
    2. passive
    3. assertive
  • In the next two lessons we are going to talk about ways to handle normal conflict.
  • There are 3 ways people handle conflict. Look at the terms on the board. What do these words mean?
  • As students brainstorm ideas, jot down words to describe each term on the board. “Let’s see what each term looks like in a conflict situation.”
  • Ask students to number a paper 1-3. “I am going to show you a clip of 3 versions of a conflict between Barbara and Katie. As you watch each clip write the word that describes how Katie handles the conflict. Is she assertive, aggressive or passive?”
  • Show Clip 11, Clip 12 and Clip 13 (Barbara pushes Katie and gets in front of her in the lunch line. In the first version Katie pushes her back and calls her a name. In the second version Katie looks down, says nothing and goes to the back of the line. In the third scenario, Katie says, “Don’t push me. It makes me angry. Please get in line behind me.”
  • Ask for student volunteers to share their responses about each scenario in the clip. The student responding should stand under the appropriate label – aggressive, passive or assertive.
  • Once the 3 students are in place, give each a card with the following description of the words:
    1. “Aggressive: It’s all about me. You have no rights. Only I can win”
    2. “Passive: It’s all about you. I have no rights. Only you can win”
    3. “Assertive: It’s about you and me. We both have rights. We can both win.”
  • Have each student read the descriptions. Discuss. “Now let’s see how we can use assertive behavior when solving conflicts to ensure a win-win.
  • Distribute color-coded Aggressive, Assertive, and Passive cards randomly to the students.
  • “I am going to read you examples of conflicts. After each scenario I will tell you to stop and think for a moment and then I will say the name of one of the people in the conflict and then, Ready, Set, Stand. If you are holding the card that best describes how that person handled the conflict, please stand.”
  • Teacher reads scenarios from Handout 6 and students stand based on their card. For example, if the scenario matches a passive dialogue, then the students holding the passive card should stand. Note: Colors will help the teacher assess quickly if students responded appropriately. If a student with the incorrect card stands, use this as an opportunity to ask clarifying questions that reinforce the difference between aggressive, passive and assertive behavior.
  • Teacher: “Notice that the assertive person recognizes not only their rights, but the rights of the other person. They are willing to solve a problem while still respecting the other person.”
  • “In the assertive scenario, does Katie attack Barbara either physically or verbally? No, she states what she is feeling and what she wants Barbara to do.
  • This is called giving an “I”Message. An “I” Message tells 3 things:
    1. How you feel
    2. Why you feel that way
    3. What you want the other person to do
  • Distribute Handout 7
    with sample “I” Message
  • Show Clip 13, the assertive version of the conflict viewed in Activity 1. Tell students to write down what Katie says as they watch the clip. “Did Katie use an I Message?” “If yes, how?”

Discussion Guide:   Though the “I” Message does not follow the formula, it does contain the 3 parts. In some situations – like a conflict with an adult or authority figure, students would want to use a formal “I” Message. With their peers, however, they can use peer appropriate language to communicate the same 3 parts of an “I” Message. The key is to take ownership of their own feelings and avoid attacking or blaming the other person. In Katie’s example she said she felt angry and she wanted Barbara to go behind her. She said this respectfully and without escalating the conflict. Notice in the clip where she pushed her back and she called her a name how that escalated the conflict. Being assertive and staying away from “You” statements like, “You are a jerk,” or “You’re always pushing people around,” de-escalates conflict and allows the other person to know that you want to resolve a problem peacefully.


  • Ask students to watch Clip 14 which shows 2 students in a normal conflict – the action stops as one character is about to give an I Message.
  • Ask students to work in pairs to write an informal I Message.
  • Ask students to watch Clip 15 which shows a teacher and student in a conflict – ask students to work in pairs to write a formal I Message.
  • As a class, brainstorm normal conflicts you may have at school or at home. Choose one situation and write a dialogue that includes using an “I” Message, either formal or informal to relay your feelings.
  • Pretend you are going to teach younger students to use “I” Messages to help them solve conflicts. Write a “how to” article that includes instructions and examples.
  • Create a chart showing the differences between aggressive, passive, and assertive behavior. In the chart, give examples of each type of behavior.
  1. Have students search YouTube for scenes from their favorite movies or TV shows (school appropriate) that have different types of conflict. Students can embed the videos in a Google Form and create multiple choice quizzes to challenge their classmates on whether each clip shows aggressive, passive, or assertive behavior
  2. Students can make motivational posters to display around the classroom or school to remind other students to use “I” Messages using the website