Promote positive communication

image of Playworks coach giving student high five

One common challenge on school playgrounds is the use of disrespectful and non inclusive language or behavior. Although this can be frustrating to address, it is important to recognize the opportunity this presents to support kids in creating safe and inclusive spaces.

Playworks tries to create safe, inclusive spaces making high fives and positive language the norm at recess. These tools can be modeled by adults and student leaders and embedded into games. For example, when a student cycles out of a game of foursquare, each student waiting in the recycle line can give that student a high five  and say, “Good job, nice try”. In doing so, we build community among students and create positive habits. We also replace the phrase, “you’re out!” which often leads to conflict.

Positive communication engages students and fosters healthy behaviors both in and out of the classroom. When students use positive language and high fives starting in first grade, these tools become part of their normal vocabulary throughout their entire elementary school experience. But what steps can we take to get started?

The strategy for making positive communication the norm is not linear; it involves not just one-time actions but  reinforcing behaviors with different groups throughout the year.

To implement positive communication, an adult and/or student leaders can:

(A) set expectations early and often

(B) model positive language and behavior

(C) promote and reinforce use of positive communication during play

What you can try this week:

Set expectations early and often

  • Make student leaders role models for positive behavior. Meet with them to set goals, like giving 5 high fives each day.

  • Open games or recess by demonstrating for students how they can communicate positively when a fellow student gets ‘out’ of a game.

  • Close games or recess by affirming students who were using positive language or giving high fives.

Model positive language and behavior

  • Adults can join games at recess and model positive communication by saying “good job, nice try” when students get ‘out’ of a game, or giving high fives to students.

Promote or reinforce positive communication

  • Make a rule that when a student gets ‘out’ of a game like foursquare, she/he has to get a high five from everyone waiting in the recycle line before the next player cycles into the game.

  • Have the group of students waiting to play repeat a positive cheer when a player gets out of the game.

Click on the image below to download. Print out this poster and get started!

image showing poster. click image to download pdf of poster.