The first days back at school are all about routines, schedule and new experiences. For Kindergarten and Grade One students, one of the most exciting, and potentially overwhelming new experiences, is, that's right, the dreaded R word...RECESS!!!
The school I was at a few years ago had full day Kindergarten, so when the students entered grade one they were recess pros. They already had a year of practice with the routines. It was also a smaller school, only one of each grade, so there weren't an overwhelming amount of students outside during recess time.
The school I am at now has half day Kindergarten, and the students don't have recess with the rest of the students when they go outside. The school is also quite large, about 4 of each grade. When the students enter grade one they have never experienced recess.
This was new to me, and so on the first few days during recess I had students who were terrified of being outside, who wanted me to be with them during every recess for the entire month of September, and who were generally not ready to be with 600 other students and play.
Sound familiar? I felt terrible that I didn't do a great job of preparing them and vowed to change things for the next year. Here are my top five ideas for making this an easier transition.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice- expectations MUST be very clear, don't leave anything out. Things such as which washroom to use, who to ask if you need help, where to play, which shoes to wear, where to go when the bell rings and the list goes on! I think it's important to go through these expectations, role play them, read stories and most importantly be a role model. Go out with your students and show them where to go, what to do and how to play. This foundation with set them up for success during recess time for the rest of the year.
2. Building Relationships- Of course it is always important to build relationships with students, but knowing your students well can also help with this recess transition. Sensitive students may need an extra buddy, or a visit from you when they are playing to feel safe. It is also important that classmates have relationships with each other as they are each others lifeline when they are outside. Make sure to set this up before, and especially look out for students who are new to the school and may need an extra buddy or two.
3. Comfort- These kids are still so little! It must be incredibly overwhelming to see kids EVERYWHERE with no structure and the person that they are supposed to trust (their teacher) may not be with them outside. They may need a heart sticker, a hug, a picture or a stuffed buddy to take out with them to make the transition a little more easy.
4. Distraction- Give them a job, something important to do while they are outside. Some equipment to play a game, a scavengar hunt, finding a supervisor and saying hello, figuring out where the park is, and any other ways to take their mind off feeling scared, nervous or worried.
5. Positive Attitude- A little "I'm so proud of you", and "I see a big improvement"; a little encouragement goes a long way. It is baby steps in those first days. You know that student that cried for the entire first recess, well celebrate that the second day they only cried for half of it. Looking at things in a positive way can help students feel better about.
Using all of these ideas, I made a resource to use in those first days of school. Included is a scavenger hunt, getting ready sheets, King and Queen puppets, certificates, a story, recess rules, a chant, and scenarios to practice. You can find this entire resource here:
I hope that your students are easily able to transition into the recess routine, good luck on the first days back!