Posts Tagged ‘recess’


What the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report Says About Recess

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

four kids playing on recess equipment

The latest Shape of the Nation report included a combination of recess and research. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America have poured vast amounts of time and energy into figuring out how our children can get the most out of recess.

In the U.S., two recesses rarely look the same. Only eight states have policies that require schools to offer recess, and researchers found there were no real guidelines in any part of the country. This despite the recommendations that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

With that in mind, there’s no time like the present to reexamine the way your school looks at recess. This summary of the report’s 19 strategies should serve as a good start.

Formalize the Fun

Ever heard of a recess curriculum? One of the broad strategy recommendations of the Shape of the Nation report is to make significant leadership decisions so recess becomes a priority. This doesn’t mean recess should be rigid and regimented, but it does mean your school should have a written physical education plan so all school staff and supervisors understand why daily physical activity benefits their students’ health and focus.

Sit down with teachers, parents, and students and create a set of policies to guide recess. This can involve everything from designating indoor and outdoor play spaces to figuring out how to keep students safe if a freak snowstorm hits during recess. Your strategy should include your school’s philosophy about recess, the goals it will take to get there, and who is responsible for taking on each step.

If you’re not sure where to start, the CDC has a self-assessment tool schools can use to see where they’re doing well and the areas in which they still need improvement.

From Planning to Playground

It’s time to adapt your schoolyard or indoor recess space so students benefit from your planning.

When possible, schools should provide ample play equipment. The types of equipment will vary, based on the age categories of your school. Educators should look beyond soccer balls and jump ropes and ensure their bounty of recess gear includes equipment that is inclusive for children of all ages and abilities. Consider balls of different size, textures, and color, as well as manipulative equipment that can be used by children with gross motor delays.

In addition to equipment, the report recommends creating designated physical activity zones. For example, your schoolyard could be split into three areas: one each for sports, fitness skills, and relaxation. This schoolyard division will make recess more satisfying for students and avoid the accidents that inevitably happen when two sports collide. One of your physical activity zones should also acknowledge that exercise doesn’t just come in the form of traditional sports. Drama productions, mazes, and obstacle courses can be created by more creative staff members and will serve the same positive purpose: getting children on their feet and having fun.

Finally: safety first. The Shape of the Nation report found that just under half of American schools post safety rules and guidelines for equipment, despite almost all schools having this equipment available to students. Creating an accessible list of rules and ensuring play equipment meets safety standards is an excellent preventative measure your school should take.

Activate Your Community

Everyone should be invested and engaged in making recess a success. If you laid out supervisory roles in your written recess plan, now is the time to implement them. While most schools require teachers and parents to be supervisors, less encourage them to be physical activity facilitators. Facilitators guide students through different activities, which helps reduce injury, bullying, and exclusionary behavior. While safety supervisors should be adults, physical activity facilitators can be found within your student body. Allowing older students to organize and facilitate an activity of their choice is essential in positive youth development and can create valuable peer leadership opportunities.

Tweak for Next Year

No strategy is complete without a means to assess it. The report recommends schools gather information about recess: how much intense physical activity is the average child getting, how is this affecting classroom outcomes, discipline rates, etc. Gathering this information will help you constantly refine your recess plan and provide a source of evidence if anyone ever challenges your school’s recess values.

Physical activity time is an essential part of a child’s school day. By incorporating all or some of the Shape of the Nation’s strategies, you can be sure you’re making recess the best it can be.

Adapted Physical Activities for Recess

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

physical activities

Recess can be the most fun part of a child’s school day, and it’s important for any planned activities to be inclusive for all students.

That’s where adapted physical activities come in. These are activities that have been changed in one way or another to accommodate students who have sensory, motor and/or intellectual disabilities. The tools used in adapted physical activities are also often changed to fit students’ needs, and can include the use of textured sensory balls and padded equipment.

Adapted physical activities aren’t just for students with disabilities, and the right activity can be fun for all students to play together. They key is to have the proper equipment and supervision on hand so that all children participate equally.

Schoolyard Soccer

Soccer is one of the most popular recess sports, and can be easily adapted to allow for inclusion. Some strategies include:

  • Have students walk rather than run;
  • Use a slightly deflated ball, it rolls slower; or adapted equipment that is brightly colored, softer, larger, and/or is textured;
  • Make the playing area smaller and have less students on the field;
  • Ensure a teacher or student is on hand to blow a whistle or call out when a goal has been scored.

The above strategies aren’t dramatic shifts from soccer as we know it, but they do make the game more approachable for students with mobility issues and visual impairments.

Jump Rope

Jump rope can be an excellent way to increase both cardio levels and coordination. It can also be an excellent adapted physical education activity for recess.

One adapted technique is to have students change the way they move the rope. Rather than moving it in circles, try instead having two students hold the rope stationary at a height low to the ground. Students can then jump over the unmoving rope, mastering the movement it takes to jump rope the traditional way. Students without disabilities can be challenged by having the rope raised higher and higher with each subsequent jump. Students holding the rope need to hold it loosely that it comes out of their hands if a jumper trips over the rope, especially for students with limited gross motor skills.

For students who want to jump rope the traditional way, brightly colored ropes or a beaded rope can help increase awareness of when a child needs to successfully jump. The students turning the rope can also call out each time a student’s feet are supposed to leave the ground.

SHAPE America recommends ditching the skipping rope all together. By drawing a target on the ground, students can pretend to jump rope while hopping on and off that specific marker. That allows children to attain the same level of fitness and improve their coordination, without the pressure or frustration of having to keep the rope moving.

For students who can’t jump or children in wheelchairs, jump ropes can be an excellent tool to create a simple obstacle course on a smooth playground surface. Create a series of wavy lines or circles using the rope and have children run, walk, or wheel alongside that course.

Softball

Like soccer, this is another popular recess sport that can be made more inclusive. Recess supervisors should consider the following adaptations:

  • Use a velcro ball and provide those students with gross motor delays a velcro mitt;
  • Limit the pitching distance and have a batting tee on hand for students who have trouble with hand-eye coordination;
  • Reduce the distance between bases and have students without disabilities give tagging leeway for their classmates with a disability;
  • Replace bats with a tennis racquet for students who may have a hard time hitting the ball;
  • Have a bright colored, soft, or beeping ball that is better seen and heard by students with a visual impairment.

Since softball places the focus on one student at a time, it’s an easier activity to adapt for a child’s individual needs, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

The key to incorporating adapted physical activity into recess is to ensure there’s buy-in from all children. This should be no problem at all if you maintain the tried and true elements of play: movement, laughter, and the opportunity to have fun.