Recess: Lessons From the Playground

 

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On this beautiful fall day, I am one of three teachers on recess duty. A sense of calm fills the playground – ready for the children who love their time outside. Minutes later, 80-3rd Grade students explode onto the playground for 30 minutes of learning.

Recess – their daily, self-guided class, is officially underway.

As I stand on one end of our track, I’m in a centralized location where I witness the outdoor education in full swing:

  • LESSON #1 – PROBLEM SOLVING AND DECISION MAKING

In the middle of the field I observe the early stages of a football game developing. The students thoughtfully divided the teams, ensuring the balance of power is relatively equal. I can tell the players are satisfied based on how quickly the game begins. Throughout the game I witness several small confrontations, all of which were resolved through redo’s, rock, paper scissors, or simple problem solving.

  • LESSON #2 – CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND PATIENCE

Just off the track there was a game of 4-square taking place. Students were lined up, patiently waiting their turn to enter the game. Again, like the football game, there were several close calls challenging the students to resolve conflict. Despite the disputes, the game would consistently resume with no hard feelings and continued excitement.

  • LESSON #3 – SOCIAL SKILLS AND COMMUNICATION

I quickly noticed the football game abruptly stop. There was a small group of boys and girls who wanted a space to play soccer. I wanted to intervene and share my solution, however I resisted the temptation to help. Instead, I observed, and within no time the football game quickly moved to the far end of the field, creating ample space for the soccer game.

  • LESSON #4 – IMAGINATION AND TEXT TO LIFE CONNECTIONS

I then look beyond the track into Discovery Playground. Six students were gathering wood and branches, dragging them to a triangular structure constructed out of long sticks, resembling a tepee. To the left I witnessed two more students pretending to hunt. I soon realized they were preparing for the “long winter ahead.” Their game was based on, The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was impressed by their connection to literature.

  • LESSON #5 – CREATIVITY

As I turn to my right, toward the playground equipment, I see a flurry of activity, which at first glance, seems to be chaos. There were boys and girls running in all directions. Some were fleeing while others were chasing. The game appeared to be a variation of Capture the Flag. To an outsider, the rules seemed complicated and without boundaries. To its creators, the game made perfect sense.

  • LESSON #6 – LEADERSHIP

IMG_20151101_214113My attention is then drawn to excitement and laughter just beyond the soccer game.   A group of girls were working together to choreograph a dance. One of the girls was teaching her friends a cheer from her cheerleading team. In just a short time the girls were in sync, and had learned both the cheer and the routine.

 

 

  • LESSON #7- PERSEVERANCE, EMPATHY, AND CAMARADERIE

IMG_20151101_213840I see a boy running alone on the track. His pace seems to quicken after each lap. I then noticed he was acquiring a fan club, which was standing next to another teacher on recess duty. As his peers began chanting his name, he began to sprint as if being chased by a dog. As he crossed in front of the teacher, he collapsed with exhaustion. The students exploded with excitement when the teacher called out, “7:21!” This was a new personal record for the runner. He apparently attempts to break his PR once a week. One of his buddies helped him up and escorted him to the water fountain. I appreciated his empathy and support.

  • LESSON #8 – RESPONSIBILITY AND RESPECT

Finally, the whistle blows and recess has come to an end. 3rd Grade students immediately race to their lines. Within seconds, there are 4 lines standing at the door, ready to go inside. Three students are packing up the recess equipment into their bag when they realize a basketball is missing. Another student sees the ball near the courts, hustles over to get it, and places it in the bag.

NOW, recess is complete.  Another day in the students’ outdoor classroom is a success.

From a teacher’s perspective, recess duty is an opportunity to watch students grow physically, emotionally, and socially, in an unstructured environment.  It’s a time when we put the plan book away and allow PLAY to provide the lesson.


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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The Art of Losing

I recently had the honor of coaching my son’s U9 lacrosse team.  As a culminating event, we participated in a 2-day tournament along with several other Metro Atlanta teams.  The weather was beautiful and the competition was great!  However, as I coached our games and watched several others, I began to notice a pattern develop.  When teams began to face adversity and ultimately lose a game, storm clouds would roll in despite the cloudless skies.  Parents would inevitably begin screaming at the other team, blaming the referees, and demanding retribution.   Instead of greeting their children with smiles following the game, they would instead seek out a coach, referee, or another parent to demonstrate their disgust, all in plain view of their sons.  What message is this sending their child?  Frustrated and disgusted, I was inspired to send the following message to the parents of my team.

It’s always tough to end the season with a loss.  However, losing can be such a positive learning experience for all of us.  It’s easy to make excuses and justify each loss by blaming the referees or the other team’s aggressive style of play, the weather, or the bumpy uneven playing field.  What does this actually accomplish?  Sometimes we just need to accept that we simply scored less points than the other team.  Losing is becoming a lost art form.  It’s our job to teach our gang that it’s okay to come out on the short end, even if as parents, we feel there was an unfair advantage.  Let’s use it as motivation and reflect on what we can do as an individual or team to better our chances next time. Let our children develop their own mechanism to handle defeat. Allow our players to be kids and have fun.  Let’s model gracious behavior both in victory and defeat.  Following a tough loss, the last thing our guys want to do is dwell on it.  Losing is not the end of the world.  A positive character is what will make our budding sons into great men.  That is priceless.  

The way a child handles failure can help them to face the certain failures life will throw them in the future.  The worst thing for us to do as parents is give negative advice and justify every loss with excuses immediately after a disappointment.  We need to let our children cope in their own way.  In my experience as a teacher and coach, a child generally takes about 1-2 minutes to recover from a loss.  Then they just want to play, have fun, or take a trip to Dairy Queen.  Together, let’s win back the art of losing!


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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