Lesson 1: Identify the Problem

Individual with their head in their hand while using a laptop and phone

Name(s) of student(s):

Age and grade level:

Goal from IEP connected to lesson:

Objective from IEP connected to lesson:

Purpose of lesson: To recognize and identify a problem.

Materials needed: Internet access, Word document


“Today, we begin a unit on problem-solving. The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. We’ll discuss how to recognize and identify an issue needing to be addressed.”

Discussion: Recognizing a Problem

“Certain problems are straightforward, such as not having enough money to purchase lunch, while other problems are not as easily discernible: you are lost on a new route, you were just teased, you are feeling uncomfortable on a date, or you think you may have come across as a bit aggressive when requesting an accommodation. Let’s talk about identifying a problem.”

Teach the student to pay attention to her natural reactions and impressions. Do not ignore feeling lost, confused, frustrated, unsafe, doubtful, stuck, hurt, remorseful, or off-course; these concerns may b a dilemma. If something is awry, inaccessible, or unnecessarily difficult, there is a problem.

“Additionally, a problem may be recognized by a family member, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, and may be brought to your attention. If this is the case, listen to the perceived problem and verify its existence.”

Exercise: Discern the Problem

  • Share a time when you, the instructor, recognized a problem.
  • Have the student write or verbally express a creative story where the main character pays attention to his feelings that reveal an encountered problem.
  • Ask student if she recognizes a current problem she feels comfortable sharing.

Discussion: Isolate the Problem

“So you have paid attention to being or feeling off-course and you discern there is a problem. Now what? Uncover the precise problem. Think through what has happened and isolate the deviation from the intended course. In other words, what is it that veered you off course or kept you from succeeding?”

“Here is a simple example: Suppose you notice your grades in Social Studies are declining. You have a problem. Thinking through the course of events, you recognize you have been constantly falling asleep in social studies class. You are tired every morning. What went wrong? Oh yes, you have been up until 1 am most nights. The problem is that you are not getting enough sleep.”

“Keep in mind there may be more than one problem diverting you from success. Focus your attention on one problem at a time.”

Exercise: Defining the Problem

Assist the student in defining a likely problem that resulted in the following situations:

  • Joey is almost always late to school.
  • Maria didn’t meet anyone on her first day of taking college courses.
  • Sean doesn’t have any money and therefore can’t take his girlfriend to dinner.

Exercise: Fundraising Project

Over the course of this unit, the students should gather in a group setting to solve a problem. Create an opportunity for the group to enjoy (holiday party, end-of-the-year trip, or field trip) and inform the students that the celebration or excursion needs funding. They will solve many problems in the process of fundraising.

For the purpose of this lesson, describe the future celebration or adventure and identify the problem of lack of funding. Ask the students if they are willing to help solve the problem in the coming weeks, planning and executing a fundraiser.


“Today we began our unit on problem solving. We learned to recognize when there is a problem and identify it. We also began to think about our end-of-the-year trip. We recognized the funding predicament and will continue to learn about problem solving as we venture to raise money.”

Progress notes, data collection, comments, and modifications: