In The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 1 Frustration, I shared the challenges I’ve faced over the years plotting various solutions for student accountability in regard to recess equipment. Simply stated, “Why is all the recess equipment being stranded on the play ground?”
“Personally, I have meticulously developed plans, charts, and strategies to ensure all recess equipment would be retrieved and accounted for following each recess session. Initially, the designs worked flawlessly, however, much like the not-put-away shoes we trip over, forgotten equipment was strewn across the playground, waterlogged, faded, and over-heated. Ultimately, the playground balls in particular, would be lost, stolen, flattened, or would simply disappear into the playground abyss. Plan after plan after inefficient plan, would end with the same fate. No recess balls, no student accountability.”
Summing up my previous post, I concluded with the following:
Several years ago, my team and I set up a meeting to brainstorm ideas for yet ANOTHER plan. What we devised was a system which included the PE team, the classroom teachers and assistants AND the students all working together.
After poring over the many failed attempts to teach out students accountability, my team and I finally determined the missing ingredient: Us! The Teachers!
As adults, we set alarms to wake up, fitness trackers alert us when we need to move, and our cars remind us when we are low on fuel. Like us, students thrive with reminders. They crave adults leadership to model appropriate behaviors. It’s the same as a math teacher spending extra time on a difficult concept, ensuring that every student understands. The idea parallels the reminders we consistently give students in the lunch room when the noise level exceeds the limit. Even we, the adults, need similar reinforcement and guidance. My point is, we can’t expect to devise a recess plan, explain it to the students one or two times, the expect them to carry it out flawlessly over an extended amount of time.
To that end, here is the plan my team and I developed several years ago. We shared the new plan with our students at an assembly with a thorough explanation and PowerPoint presentation.
The first thing we did during our presentation was state the dilemma and explain the goal of the Improved Recess Plan.
Next, we gave an brief overview of the plan.
We followed the overview with a more in depth discussion about each of the three points, beginning with the bag. We were fortunate enough to purchase several bags, each a different color for each grade level. Every year the bags are restocked with equipment color coordinated with the bag. Every school has a different budget for equipment so it’s understood that the contents of your recess bag may look different than ours. You can also use laundry baskets as a cost efficient option instead of bags. Regardless, the plan remains the same.
It’s imperative to include a checklist on the bag. This reminds the students of its contents when it’s time to gather the equipment.
EQUALLY IMPORTANT: With a sharpie, label each ball with the grade level.
Each bag has an inventory tag. This is a MUST!
We instructed the students and teachers to create an additional student job called Recess Equipment Manager. As stated below, the Recess Equipment Manager would have a specific job description. However, this chosen individual would need help.
Teachers on recess duty would have to remind students to collect the equipment using the checklist attached to the bag. They would have to hold not only the managers, but the rest of students accountable for the equipment if it was left behind. Teachers also have to remind students to report any lost or damaged equipment. Find a time to speak to all the teachers regarding this important responsibility. Set up a time during pre-planning if possible.
We later realized that there needed to be a team of Recess Equipment Managers. Therefore, each class would provide one manager for a total of four. Following a recess session, having more eyes on the equipment proved to be more efficient and less taxing.
Students who are NOT the Recess Equipment Managers need reminders that they too are responsible for the equipment. If a student takes a ball from the bag, then that same student should make sure the ball is returned to the bag at the end of recess or when they are finished using it.
Below is the policy we initially established for damaged equipment. Presently, without hesitation, we will replace any equipment damaged from normal wear and tear. We are not as lenient with lost equipment.
The above plan may seem elaborate and perhaps even over-the-top. I’m sure some of you have recess equipment plans which are more simplified and work well for your school. Our color-coded equipment plan has definitely, without a doubt, been the best plan implemented thus far throughout my career. However, for every successful plan, there needs to be a team effort. Our students are being molded from early on to become responsible and accountable adults. Along with their parents, we the educators, play a significant role in this development. We can and should use recess as another opportunity to enhance student accountability.
*Special thanks to my colleagues Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin), Brian Balocki (@brianbalocki), and Laura English (@PECoachLaura.)
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