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July 01, 2008

Playground P's & Q's

In the past year there have been numerous reports of school administrators banning various behaviors on the playground.  For example, a school in Minneapolis, Minnesota banned touching due to rough housing incidents.  A school in Spokane, Washington has enforced a "no running" policy in order to maintain order on the playground.  These instances make me wonder, if you can’t touch the hand of a classmate or run on a playground, where are students going to learn these skills? 
My style as a teacher is to assume nothing.  Each student that walks in my door has a different life story and varying degrees of learning experiences.  It is my job to set expectations and parameters and to work with my class to develop rules and logical consequences that we can live by during our time to together.  This takes a lot of work.  In fact, the first 5-6 weeks of my school year are devoted entirely to this process.  We learn appropriate ways to use our materials and equipment and also agree on how to handle difficult situations with our friends.   
Our school shares a large wooden playground with the neighboring elementary school.  Weather permitting, I take my students outside daily for at least 15 minutes.  This is an important time for them to work their developing muscles, practice motor planning and interact socially with their peers.  I can’t imagine the horror of having to enforce a "no touching" or "no running" policy!  With enough practice and consistency from the teachers and assistants in our program, we've been able to create an active, safe and appropriate playground environment for all of our students.
One of the main reasons that playground behavior is an issue for school communities is because some teachers and administrators fail to see the playground as an extension of their classroom or school building.  Expectations and logical consequences need to be created, practiced and enforced.  Playground monitors, often in charge of recess supervision while we teachers grab lunch, need to know the rules and enforcement policies in order to maintain order.  With persistence, patience and consistency it is possible to maintain a safe and fun playground environment for students without taking the running out of recess.   



Playground monitors? That sounds like heaven, where do I sign-up? LOL Playground monitors don't exist in TX.
I agree that rules need to be enforced on the playground to keep everybody safe, I've seen too many dangerous incidents on playgrounds to think otherwise.

Thanks for posting something that makes so much sense. I'm a 30 year old guy without kids who doesn't know much about what goes on in elementary schools these days. I just heard a program on the radio (in Alaska) and it was discussing Mrs. Obama's childhood obesity proposals and the topic of 'No Running' signs on playgrounds came up. And when I began looking around the internet I found that 'No Touching' was a common rule on playgrounds. What is going on here? I hope your community can keep its head on its shoulders and not jump on the crazy train!

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