The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 2 – A plan that works

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.

AHA! MOMENT

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 9.03.58 PM

The first thing we did during our presentation was state the dilemma and explain the  goal of the Improved Recess Plan.

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Next, we gave an brief overview of the plan.

Breif Plan Overview

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. 

1. THE BAG

The Bag
We later realized we were handing out WAY too much equipment at once. We now store some of the equipment for later in the school year.
Bag Continued
Our school has four classes per grade level. Each class takes turns storing the bag.

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.

SharpieEQUALLY IMPORTANT: With a sharpie, label each ball with the grade level.  

 

Bag Labels

Each bag has an inventory tag. This is a MUST!

 

2. THE NEW SYSTEM

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.

The System

 

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.

3. REPLACING EQUIPMENT

 

Replacing Equipment
Each school will have a unique plan for replacing equipment depending on budget and philosophy.

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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The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 1 – Frustration

Why I love recess:

I strongly believe recess provides elementary-aged students a brilliant balance to their school day. It’s an opportunity for students to freely explore and socialize while developing and boosting emotional, physical, and social growth in an unstructured environment.

But wait! There’s more!

Recess also throws in a bonus lesson of responsibility for the students, and grants educators an opportunity to reinforce student accountability.

What? Read on.

SOLVING MY RECESS RIDDLE: Where is everything?

Over the last 25 years, I have attempted to teach students to be accountable for recess equipment, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve witnessed teachers with recess captains, leaders, and helpers toting out baskets, bins, and bags, filled with their gear, only to return empty.

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 shoes we trip over that were never put away, 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.

I recently stumbled across the following email sent to the faculty and staff of a school where I previously worked. The date was September 13, 2006, and I was frustrated another “well-thought-out plan” was leading to failure. I was seeking assistance and guidance from anyone to help teach our students to be accountable. Therefore, I attempted to douse the dilemma with a little humor, and draw other teacher’s attention to my frustration…empathy anyone?

Anyway, here’s the email:

Ladies and gentlemen,

It brings me great sadness to announce the untimely death of our beloved soccer ball. As I braved the elements and journeyed across campus in search of our missing friend, I was horrified to discover our once firm, bouncy friend, completely flat under a butterfly bush.  As I placed my hand on his damaged polypropylene skin, and shook gently while asking,”are you okay?”, I immediately realized I needed to attempt to resuscitate with my air pump.  After several minutes of rescue breathing I realized the ball was dead.  The apparent cause of death was several puncture wounds to the bladder.  It is my belief our friend was taken outside to be happily kicked around.  Then, instead of being put back with his friends in his little white laundry basket home, he was abandoned. Being forced to face the elements proved to be too much of a challenge for the less than 24 hour-old ball.  Perhaps as he was bouncing around searching for his friends football, volleyball, basketball and kickball, he rolled into a pack of dogs.  It seams the punctures are a result of dog teeth.  Dogs are NOT balls best friends. Hopefully DNA can narrow the search for the killer by presenting the breed responsible. There will NOT be a public viewing of the ball since I already threw it away. 

Please be gentle with the remaining balls as they are in a state of grief. Inform the children the balls may not bounce as high and far as usual since they’re feeling rather flat today. Kim is available for anyone who needs counseling.

Warmest regards,

Justin

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Perhaps you’ve experienced similar challenges. Maybe you have a plan that has worked for your school. If so, please share. 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. To be continued…

Stay tuned for The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 2 – A plan that works. 


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Recess Duty: Are you Qualified?

I am a HUGE advocate for unstructured recess.

I firmly believe a 30 minute recess should be a mandatory part of every child’s day, in addition to a supplemental fifteen minute brain break either earlier or later in the school day.

As a teacher, I have a unique opportunity while on recess duty to witness the emotional, physical, and social growth of children in an unstructured environment. This is a time when plan books are stowed away and learning is piloted by children’s imaginations and creativity.

Recess is a necessity

Olga Jarrett, professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Georgia State, states when children have recess they are: less fidgety and more on task, have improved memory and more focused attention, develop more brain connections, learn negotiation skills, exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts, and are more physically active before and after school.

In a previous post titled, Recess Lessons From the Playground, I discuss how unstructured recess is a student’s outdoor classroom where the following lessons are presented daily:

  • PROBLEM SOLVING AND DECISION MAKING
  • CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND PATIENCImage result for recess duty learning
  • SOCIAL SKILLS AND COMMUNICATION
  • IMAGINATION INCLUDING TEXT TO LIFE CONNECTIONS
  • CREATIVITY
  • LEADERSHIP
  • PERSEVERANCE, EMPATHY, AND CAMARADERIE
  • RESPONSIBILITY AND RESPECT
  • EXERCISE

Also, check out SHAPE America’s Top 10 Reasons for Recess.

Unstructured Recess Does NOT Equal Unsupervised Recess

In some instances teachers confuse unstructured recess with unsupervised recess. While students are being challenged by the real life lessons recess naturally provides, teachers must be present. For teachers, recess is NOT time for a break, to grade papers, sit and chat with colleagues, or catch up on social media.

Too often, adults on recess duty forget their purpose or simply don’t understand how vital their role is during a child’s free and unstructured play time.

What is the teacher’s role while on recess duty? Top 10 tips to guide you

 

Lauren:Kate

1. SPREAD OUT  – Supervisor zones

Teachers need to spread out and observe. Much like lifeguards at a busy beach or water park, adults on recess duty need to separate themselves from other adults and keep their heads on a swivel. We need to resist the temptation to sit or stand in a group socializing throughout recess.

2. BE CONSISTENT WITH RECESS EXPECTATIONS

Every school should have a clear set of recess expectations and boundaries. Teachers on recess duty must not only know them, but also consistently enforce them. It can be frustrating for teachers and students when some teachers adhere to the recess rules while another group of teachers have loose interpretations, barely enforcing them. As teachers, we need to be consistent and fair.

3. GIVE STUDENTS A CHANCE TO RESOLVE CONFLICT ON THEIR OWN

There’s no doubt conflict runs rampant during recess. Whether it’s a heated football game or a group of students excluding someone from their tribe, conflict is inevitable. It’s also necessary. It helps foster resilience and assists in developing problem solving strategies. It’s important for recess duty teachers to allow students the opportunity to resolve conflict on their own.

On some occasions, a teacher may need to step in to facilitate and give students the tools necessary to resolve the present and future issues.

Matt

4. KNOW WHERE THE “HOT SPOTS” ARE 

While on recess duty, there are always areas on the playground that need more of a watchful eye than others. For example, if the majority of a class is playing in the Gaga pit, then obviously this area needs direct supervision. One, because of the volume of students, and two, Gaga ball tends to be a game which challenges student integrity (stay tuned for a future post called, Gaga! Welcome to the Integrity Ball!). 

IMG_4413

5. BE PRESENT, ALERT, AND RESPONSIVE

Scan the playground from your post. Even if you’re on fifth grade recess duty, be prepared to assist students from other grade levels on different parts of the playground as needed. Just because students aren’t under your direct supervision, doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for their well-being.

6. PROVIDE TOOLS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS RATHER THAN TAKING AWAY AN ACTIVITY

Hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine a group having difficulty playing football on a daily basis. They can’t agree on teams, and the games are out of control.

Teachers can become frustrated with the students and ultimately ban them from playing. A better idea would be to monitor the games daily and give the students ample opportunity to resolve conflict.

When and if necessary, provide them with the tools to make teams and strategies to resolve conflict during the games. It may not be easy, but it’s a teachable conflict that will take time a patience.

7. OBSERVE CHILDREN OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM 

Take advantage of your recess duty to learn something new about each of your students. You may already know a certain student loves to read, but struggles in math. However, did you realize the same child enjoys running and catching insects? Use this knowledge to build connections with your students.

8. FIRST TO ARRIVE LAST TO LEAVE

Punctuality is a must. Never give the students an opportunity to be unsupervised. Whether picking up your students from a classroom or meeting them on the playground, students deserve the entire allotted time to run, play, and explore on the playground. When recess is over, make sure all your students have safely lined up and make their way back into the school.

Diane Swings

9. REDIRECT CHILDREN TO APPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES

Kids are inquisitive. Many, if not all, have an innate desire to explore, even if it pushes beyond the recess expectations and boundaries. In many instances, children are so engaged and hyper-focused on what they’re doing, they don’t realize they may be doing something wrong. You might find a group of students organizing a soccer game in the middle of a preexisting football game. After giving the two groups ample opportunity to resolve the overlap, you may have to help the soccer players find another safe place to play.

It can be easy to assume bad intentions when you notice a child or children breaking rules or overstepping boundaries. Take a deep breath, and calmly approach the situation.  Have a conversation to discover the true intentions. If necessary, redirect them to appropriate activities. Often, the original idea can be tweaked in order to make it acceptable for recess.

10. EMERGENCY READINESS

Student and teacher safety is of utmost importance during recess. All teachers need to be ready to react to any given situation.

Here are my top 7 Emergency Readiness Strategies:

  1. Know the protocol for minor and serious injuries.
  2. Memorize your nurse’s phone number and/or program it into your phone.
  3. Keep your CPR and First Aid certifications up to date.
  4. Be able to locate or direct another person to your school’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
  5. Study your school’s emergency guidelines in regard to severe weather and intruders.
  6. Be sure your colleagues are on duty with you, appropriate student to teacher ratio is a must.
  7. When an emergency situation presents itself, be proactive.

For teachers, recess duty is a job in itself. I’ve been extremely fortunate to currently work in a school where recess is taken seriously. All students in all grade levels receive  recess daily. Our administrators begin each school year with a reminder that all recess duty teachers must spread out and supervise the outdoor classroom.

So next time you’re on recess duty, remember “duty” isn’t just a word that makes your kids laugh (like mine). It is a critical responsibility to ensure children are safe and given an opportunity to blossom in their outdoor playground. Make sure you’re qualified, follow my 10 tips, and keep those kids in motion!

This post is dedicated to Maryellen Berry. An amazing teacher, administrator, friend, and yes, recess monitor. Maryellen, thank you for consistently reminding us about that education happens everywhere, even/especially on the playground. Recess


“Recess Makes Kids Smarter | Scholastic.” Scholastic Publishes Literacy Resources and Children’s Books for Kids of All Ages, http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/recess-makes-kids-smarter/.


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