Youth leaders are a win-win for your playground: younger students receive extra attention, while older kids gain leadership skills and confidence. Older students with different strengths, those who struggle academically, may find the playground is an opportunity to shine — they just need the responsibility and an adult to trust in them.

Share these tips with your recess staff to get more older students involved, or take your youth leaders program to the next level:

What can kids do? Here are 6 great roles for older students at recess

  • Line Leader. Cut down on transitions to and from the playground — ask students to lead the class in a cheer, follow the leader, or other transition activity.
  • High Fiver. Challenge students to give high fives and positive comments: “Nice try kicking the ball!” or “I like how you shared.”
  • Shoe tie-er. Capable students love to show off their tying skills, and there’s never a shortage of shoes to tie when little ones get out on the playground.
  • Game Leader. Providing support for staple games like four square, soccer, wall ball, or basketball.
  • Equipment Manager. Student leaders get a kick out of distributing and collecting equipment at the beginning and end of recess, and can help cut back on lost items over time.
  • Recess Buddy. Ask a student leader to watch out for kids who hang back on the sidelines and invite them to join the game.

Assign tasks

Tasks may change day-to-day or remain consistent. You can:

  • Assign and post roles at the same spot where youth leaders sign in.
  • Hold a quick meeting before recess to delegate tasks: “Review the rules for 4 square before starting the game.
  • Let students decide which games they want to lead, but encourage them to try something new — for example, boys to lead and play jump rope and girls to lead and play football.
  • Create a Job Wheel that youth leaders can spin.

What you can try this week:

  • Determine which jobs your youth leaders can take on at recess.
  • Write a process for assigning tasks, or delegate to a recess leader.
  • Think about incentives and encouragement. What do your 4th and 5th graders get excited about?

In my classroom… I see the students who are [playground leaders] take charge such as in setting up the chairs for my next class or helping a student with a disability or just being a good friend and listening.
Balsz Elementary, Arizona, July 2017

Sample check-in system for responsibility and accountability

Use this template to design your own check-in/ check-out process for junior coaches.

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Incentive Resources

Plan and implement an incentive system to keep rewards organized and fair.

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