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Change Recess by Encouraging Students to Take on Leadership Roles

Posted in: Active Living, Blogs

Recess is a very important time for students to reap the benefits of physical activity and to build strong social skills through play experiences.  However, many students are not getting an adequate amount of physical activity during this time.  What’s more, recess can also be a time where instances of negative behavior and bullying can rise.

One solution to this is to designate playground leaders.  These playground leaders are typically students from the older grades in your school. These student leaders can be given a number of ‘jobs’ to help make recess go smoother.  Here are some ideas:

  • Line Leader. Transitions to and from the playground can be challenging. You can cut down on those challenges by giving students the job to lead their class in a simple transition activity, such as a cheer, follow the leader or one of these ideas.
  • High Five Distributer. Encourage a positive environment on the playground by challenging students to pass out as many high fives as possible or by having youth leaders use kind words, such as nice try kicking the ball, great job passing to your teammate or I like how you shared.
  • RoShamBo Coach. Student leaders can help others solve simple conflicts by encouraging their peers to play rock paper scissor or guiding younger students how to play.
  • Shoe tie-er. Anyone who has ever spent a day with kindergarteners knows that several need help tying their shoes. Tying shoes can get tiresome, but many capable students love to show off their tying skills and helping the little ones. Assign these students as shoe tie-ers and send those in need to them.
  • Game Leader. Staple games on your playground, such as four square, soccer, wall ball or basketball, may need a little support to go smoothly. By assigning a student leader to each game, you can ensure every kid plays fairly.
  • Equipment Manager. With hundreds of students on the playground, recess equipment is easily lost. Many student leaders, however, love distributing and collecting equipment at the beginning and end of recess.
  • Junior Coach. Some of the most popular games on K-2 playgrounds are lead by adults. Tag games, such as Mr/Ms Fox and Cookie Monster, are big crowd pleasers. You can get the same (or at least similar) effect when older students lead tag games at recess!
  • Recess Buddy. Some students don’t know how to jump into a game or ask another to play. Instead they sit on the sideline waiting for an invitation. Include these students by asking a student leader to watch out for kids on the sideline and invite them to join the game.
  • Start a PALS Program. If you’re interested in starting a more comprehensive playground leader program that involved leadership training modules for the students, check out the Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (PALS) program. All of the resources needs to implement PALS are FREE and located on the website.
    • What is PALS? PALS is a peer-led playground leadership program that encourages all children to participate in activities regardless of their gender, size, or ability.
    • How can PALS make a difference at your school? The PALS program will benefit your students by:
      • Increasing their physical activity on the playground.
      • Decreasing conflict and reducing playground bullying.
      • Providing leadership opportunities and building Developmental Assets® for students.

Desirea Agar is a health promotion coordinator at Medicine Hat Community Health Services and can be reached at desirea.agar@ahs.ca



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