Sometimes Recess is a Child’s Most Difficult Class

While many people remember recess being their favorite class period, it can often result in unmanageable chaos for children. Even a simple game of tag can result in non-verbalized rules and social skills that can be difficult to navigate. The whole concept of tag is for one child to chase another at a fast pace and then suddenly slow their speed and touch another child in a manner that will not harm other players. While doing all of that, they must also pay attention to physical hazards, children, and the reaction of others. The game of tag is the 90’s version of a merry go round. You know, the spinning top that encourages children to sit on the end and hold on for dear life!

Establish Clear Expectations 

If your child or a group of students are struggling during recess there are many options to alleviate the challenges. The first, most important step, is to establish clear expectations. Not only should they be spoken and written, but role playing can be very effective. Model and teach the children how to appropriately play with one another using the space and equipment available. This can be done during class time and before open play.

Available Staff

The second step is to ensure ample staff are available to support student learning. Staff should be open to playing with the children to model appropriate behavior and ongoing encouragement. All staff should have the same expectations and understand how to manage student behaviors. Clear procedures for when students need to be removed to reflect on their behavior should also be planned.

Positive Behavior Supports 

The third step is to incorporate positive reinforcements. Positive reinforcements should be used to reinforce appropriate behavior. Positive Behavior Supports in Schools is a program supported on the NJ Department of Education and is available on the state website. PBSIS is used in schools throughout the country to offer discipline solutions using a positive approach.Tickets, tokens, or a simple smile and kind word can sometimes be enough to build a relationship with a child. Once that relationship is established, the easier it will be to build a support system.

I often see students that struggle assigned 1:1 aides to support during unstructured time. While there is always a time and place for aides, 1:1 aides can create an unnatural environment for young children to bond and maneuver social skills. More often, I find that the child and the 1:1 aide are sitting or playing together rather than the student integrating with their peers. If a 1:1 aide is used, consider when and how fading the support could be beneficial.


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