K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn that there are different ways of responding to conflict.
  • to define the terms: passive, aggressive, and assertive.
  • give examples of passive, aggressive, and assertive behaviors.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


  • 3 large signs saying: passive, aggressive, assertive (or write the words at extreme ends and center of blackboard)
  • Examples of situations in which students may experience conflict (included in lesson)
  • 3×5 cards


  1. The counselor introduces the concept of conflict and asks students for examples of conflicts they observe in school. The counselor leads the students in a discussion about how people respond to these conflicts and what the consequences may be.
  2. The counselor will show the sign, Passive to the students. Take it to the extreme left front of the classroom and explain that one way to deal with and respond to conflict is to be passive. When a person responds passively, he or she doesn’t stand up for what they believe and often feel that they have no rights. The passive person may feel like a doormat--that people walk all over them.
  3. The counselor then takes the sign saying Aggressive to the extreme right front of the classroom and describes an aggressive response. This person appears to be bossy and insists on his/her their own way.
  4. The counselor then places the sign saying Assertive in the center front of the classroom and describes an assertive response as being one that respects the person speaking as well as the person to whom they are speaking.
  5. The counselor then provides a middle school situation and models the three responses, first with a passive response, standing under the passive sign, then with an aggressive response, standing under the aggressive sign, and then the counselor moves to the middle with an assertive response.

    Examples of conflicts and responses:

    The student who uses the locker next to yours pushes you out of the way. Passive: Either not saying anything or saying, “I’m sorry I was in the way.” Aggressive: You push him back so you can get in your locker and call him a name. Assertive: You say, “Look, Chad. We need to find a way that both of us can use the lockers and get to class on time. Let’s work this out.” The counselor can stop after each example and get reactions from the students about how they’d feel using the different kinds of responses and what the consequences might be by using each response. Solicit other assertive ways to work the problem out.
    Others examples of situations for middle school students:

    • Your best friend says she doesn’t want to sit on the bus with you because she wants to sit with a new friend
    • Patty wants to copy your homework
    • a boy is spreading rumors about you that aren’t true
    • Frank calls you names every day in the hall.
  6. The counselor asks for volunteers to respond to the above situations and asks them to stand under each sign as they give the three kinds of responses. (This addresses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning preferences.)
  7. Finally, the counselor asks each student to write on the 3×5 card provided a description of a time that they have experienced or seen a conflict in school. On the back of the card, the students are asked to write a passive response, an aggressive response, and an assertive response. As time permits, some of the students can share the information on their cards and get other input from the rest of the class.


  • Review of 3×5 cards
  • Verbal answers by volunteers to situations in front of the class.

Supplemental information

Facilitator’s Guide for the Lifeguides Program by Joseph A. Muldoon is a good resource for assertiveness and other counseling issues.


This activity works well in the classroom setting, as well as in small groups. In addition to using the 3×5 situations and responses for assessment, the counselor will be able to add them to the scenarios provided in this lesson.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Guidance (2010)
      • Early Independent

        • EI.C.1 Use creative strategies to make decisions and solve problems. EI.C.1.1 Analyze solution strategies in terms of assumptions and biases. EI.C.1.2 Create new and different ways of achieving long-term goals. EI.C.1.3 Evaluate the effectiveness of creative...
      • Progressing

        • P.C.1 Use creative strategies to make decisions and solve problems. P.C.1.1 Understand how to make adjustments to strategies that are not effective in making decisions or solving problems. P.C.1.2 Analyze strategies you have used in the past to determine the...
        • P.SE.1 Understand the meaning and importance of personal responsibility and self-awareness. P.SE.1.1 Identify how to set boundaries that maintain personal rights while paying attention to the rights of others. P.SE.1.2 Use self-determination to build independence...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Guidance (2001)

Grade 6–8

  • Goal 7: Acquire the attitudes, knowledge, and interpersonal skills to help understand and respect self and others.
    • Objective 7.04: Distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.
    • Objective 7.05: Examine personal boundaries, rights, and privacy needs.
    • Objective 7.07: Demonstrate cooperative behavior.
    • Objective 7.11: Respect alternative points of view.
    • Objective 7.14: Use effective communication skills.
    • Objective 7.15: Understand that communication involves speaking, listening, and nonverbal behavior.