Overcoming Obstacles

Lesson 4: Creating a Win-Win Situation


  • Students will identify the characteristics of win-win solutions.

  • Students will practice the techniques of win-win negotiation in a conflict and apply those techniques to their personal conflict resolution goals.

  • Students will identify the role of a mediator in conflict resolution and practice mediating conflict.


  • Several wadded-up pieces of paper and a wastebasket (Starter)

  • Two one-dollar bills (Part I)

  • One copy of the “Win-Win, My Needs/Your Needs” activity sheet for each student (Part II)

  • A dictionary (Part III)

Starter (3 minutes)

Divide the class into two teams. Tell students that each of them will get one chance to shoot a paper ball into the wastebasket. Have each team choose a team name. Write the names on the board with a line under each.

As students take turns shooting, record one point for each shot made and one point for each shot missed. The class is likely to complain that it doesn’t matter if they miss the shot or not. Urge them to continue playing until most students have a chance to shoot.

Ask students to share their feelings regarding the competition and how it felt to not have any incentives to win. Guide them to realize that while it might have been disappointing to know that there would be no winning team, it was also reassuring to know that there would be no loser.

Point out to students that our culture generally encourages competition and that the desire to win is ingrained in us. Tell students to keep the urge to win in mind while they discuss a type of conflict resolution in which no one loses.

Part I: Who Wins the Dollar? (10 minutes)

Purpose: Students identify the characteristics of win-win solutions.

1. Students bid on a dollar in order to define “win-lose” and “lose-lose.”

Ask for two volunteers. Hold up a dollar bill and explain that you are going to hold an auction. Explain to students that at an auction people take turns stating a price that they are willing to pay for something until one of them is not willing to bid any higher for the item. A competitive energy develops whereby each party wants to take the item home.

Start the bidding for the dollar at one cent and let the volunteers continue bidding until one of them gives up or they have surpassed the value of one dollar in bids. In a place where everyone can see, write the names of the two students and a record of what they each bid.

Ask students who won. Lead students to define “win-lose” as a scenario in which one student won the dollar and the other gave up. Define “lose-lose” as a scenario in which one student won the dollar but paid more than a dollar for it, and the other student withdrew from the bidding.

2. Students bid on a dollar to create a win-win situation.

Explain to students that you are now going to auction another dollar to two different students who think that they can create a situation in which both parties win. Select two volunteers and allow them to come up with a strategy for bidding.

Allow the students to bid and again analyze the outcome. If the class does not come to the solution on its own, explain that there is a way in which both students could make money. The volunteers should agree to stop the bidding at two cents and split the remaining 98 cents. Point out to students that in this situation, neither person gets all of what they wanted (i.e., the entire dollar), but by compromising and working together, both can make money.

3. Students identify the characteristics of win-win solutions.

Ask the class to use the situation it just experienced to define the characteristics of win-win solutions to conflict. Lead students to recognize the following key points about win-win situations:

  • Both parties compromise.
  • Both parties may not get all of what they want, but the results are positive for each.
  • Both parties leave the situation feeling as if they have accomplished something.
  • Both parties work together and consider each other’s needs.

Tell students to recall the discussion from the starter about the competitive instinct and ask them to suggest how that instinct might affect their efforts toward creating a win-win situation. Elicit from students the understanding that in order to create situations in which both parties win, competition must be set aside.

Part II: Win-Win, My Needs/Your Needs (3 minutes)

Purpose: Students practice the techniques of win-win negotiation in a conflict and apply those techniques to their own personal conflict resolution goals.

1. Students identify a conflict situation.

Tell students that they are going to practice creating win-win solutions to conflicts. Have them brainstorm specific conflict situations and write their suggestions where everyone can see.

Explain that the best situation to analyze will be one in which they can clearly imagine how both sides feel and why they feel that way. Then have them vote to select one situation to analyze and write the votes next to each situation. Keep this list for use in Part III.

Tell students that they are now going to analyze the specific situation they have selected.

2. Students consider the goals and needs of both participants in a conflict.

Distribute copies of the “Win-Win, My Needs/Your Needs” activity sheet to each student.

Review the guidelines for creating win-win situations with students. Ask them to suggest the purpose of each guideline and the ways in which each might help to defuse a conflict. Tell them to apply these guidelines to the specific conflict the class selected. 

Refer students to the bottom of the page. Discuss possible responses to each question with the class. Encourage students to create as complete a picture of the conflict as possible.

3. Students consider their own personal goals for conflict resolution.

Tell students that the guidelines are an outline of the mental process that they can follow to create win-win solutions for conflicts in which they are involved.

Have students review their personal goals for conflict resolution. Instruct students to consider those situations in light of the guidelines and questions on the activity sheet and to analyze the needs and goals of the different people involved in each conflict. Have them jot down their thoughts with an eye toward creating win-win situations to resolve those conflicts.

Remind students to hold on to their goals for use in the next lesson.

Part III: Someone in the Middle (20 minutes)

Purpose: Students identify the role of a mediator in conflict resolution and practice mediating conflict.

1. Students define “mediator.”

Ask students if they know what a mediator is. Elicit a definition from the class and write it in a place where everyone can see.

Ask a volunteer to look up “mediator” in the dictionary and modify the class definition as needed. Ensure that the class understands the following important points:

  • Mediators establish reconciliation between two parties.
  • Mediators are not directly involved in the conflict.
  • Mediators remain impartial.

If your school has a peer mediation program, ask the class if they are familiar with it. Have students share their understanding of what is involved in peer mediation and provide them with additional information that you may have gathered.

Say, “Sometimes a conflict is too big for us to handle on our own. A mediator can be helpful in those situations.”

2. Students identify guidelines for mediation.

Explain to students that some of the most difficult conflicts that police face are domestic disputes. Explain that the police need to help the couple defuse anger and avoid violence, but that they must let the couple resolve the situation on their own. Lead students to understand that mediators do not solve problems; they merely bring two parties together and assist them in communicating.

Share with students the following mediation guidelines based on those that police officers use when responding to domestic disputes:

  • Bring the disputants together. Don’t give preference to one side over the other. Establish rapport with both sides.
  • Keep the parties facing you, not squared off against one another.
  • Encourage both parties to listen to each other.
  • Encourage both parties to avoid exaggerations and instead use specific examples and I-statements.
  • Don’t make judgments.
  • Maintain calm control.
  • Avoid suggesting a solution; let the disputants come up with solutions on their own.

3. Students write and perform dialogues. 

Divide students into groups of three. Tell each group to choose a conflict to mediate from those the class listed in Part II.

Instruct students to use the guidelines for mediation to write scripts for the selected conflict situations. Tell them to create roles for the disputants and for a mediator in the form of a dialogue. Remind students that they may want to refer to their “Win-Win, My Needs/Your Needs” activity sheets in order to help determine what the disputants might say to each other.

Have the groups take turns performing their dialogues for the class. Encourage the class to critique the dialogues using the mediation guidelines as criteria and discussion points.

Say, “Remember that if it seems impossible to come up with a win-win solution, a mediator might be able to provide the guidance you need.”

Conclusion (2 minutes)

Ask students to recall the guidelines for mediation. Elicit from students the following key points that were taught in this lesson:

  • A win-win situation is one in which the needs of both parties are at least partially met.
  • A mediator can help two opposing parties find common ground and resolve their dispute.

Student Assessment

  1. Identify a win-win outcome and list an example.
  2. What is mediation and when is it necessary?
  3. List four mediation strategies.

Extensions for Lesson 4: Creating a Win-Win Situation

Using Quotations


“There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower


Have students create posters displaying and illustrating this quote.

Addressing Multiple Learning Styles


Have small groups of students create a guide to finding win-win situations. Each student should contribute to the guide. Each guide should include instructions, diagrams, narratives, stories of conflict, and so on.

Have students display the guides and present them to peer mediators and staff at the school.

Writing in Your Journal


Have students write about an occasion in which they helped two people solve a dispute.

Have students discuss the difficulty of the task, how they felt after the conflict was over, what they would do again, and what they would do differently.

Using Technology


Have students use the internet to research various treaties.

Have students discuss the language used in the treaties and the long-term impact of the selected verbiage.



Have students create lists of jobs that involve conflict resolution or mediation skills.

Have each student choose one job that they find interesting and write a profile of that job.

Additional Resources


Have students read “Part Ten: Talking with the Enemy” from Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

Have students research and write a few paragraphs about the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa.

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