Move from game-to-game at recess

One of the greatest challenges of monitoring hundreds of students at recess is making sure that all the students are safely engaged with an activity or game. It’s easy for recess to dissolve into chaos if adults are stationary and only interacting with students in reaction to problems.

Strategic movement is an approach to increasing the safety and engagement of students at recess by having adults intentionally moving about the playground, joining games with students.

One example would be to gather a group of students not engaged in an activity and starting a game of foursquare. Once that game is up and running, the adult can move on to a group of students playing wall ball, joining in and modeling positive behavior or reinforcing the rules. By moving from game to game, adults build positive relationships and more effectively monitor recess.


An adult at recess demonstrates “strategic movement” by moving around from game to-game, making sure that games get started (if they haven’t already), playing in games for a couple minutes while demonstrating positive behavior by giving high fives, reinforcing the rules, and promoting the use of rock-paper-scissors to resolve minor conflicts.  


After a couple minutes, the adult moves on to a different group of students playing a game elsewhere on the playground. Strategic movement helps adults build rapport by ‘getting in the game’ (i.e., playing alongside students), giving high fives and affirmations, and helping proactively address issues before they arise (versus reactively responding to conflicts).


What you can try this week:

Set these three goals for making strategic movement a success this week at your school:

  1. Help start two games each recess
  2. Play in three games that kids are already playing
  3. Invite several students who are hanging out by the sidelines to play a game  

By having these three goals you are likely to be:

  • constantly moving around and popping in and out of games
  • making your presence felt
  • actively and proactively engaging students
  • helping kids get off the sidelines and into the game

The reward of doing all of this is that we’re more engaged with our students at recess without feeling as though we’re only reacting to behavior issues on the playground. In the end, using strategic movement makes it easier to manage recess proactively while also building positive relationships and increasing students’ safety and engagement in play.


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