Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Unruly After Recess? Problem Solved!

I'm lucky that my students get a full hour for lunch and recess.  I firmly believe the kids need recess to run around and get their energy out.

Work hard, play hard!

I never bring them in to finish work or anything like that as I truly feel it is "their time." I need that time to recharge and they do, too.

That being said, getting them back in and refocused on work can be challenging. It's hard for them to turn it off and they have come in loud, joking, and a bit scattered. It doesn't help that my classroom is so small either.  We have a closet and it is stuffed...STUFFED with backpacks and their belongings.  There's little room to move in/around it and everyone seemed to get cranky after lunch trying to squish their way in/over to the area.  I tried everything: calling one row at a time, letting a few kids in room at a time, etc. This year, I found myself dreading the ten minutes after recess. No more!

NOTE: We practice Responsive Classroom where we are supposed to have a Quiet Time after lunch. It's supposed to be a time to refocus their energy after eating, playing and running around. I always felt like I was wasting time and eager to get the kids working.  Those ten minutes were stressful.  I felt like I was rushing to get their coats away, listening to complaints/cranky kids, etc.


Really.  My classroom management is strong.  I am organized.  Why was this ten minute time-frame such a mess?

I think I figured it out.  I needed to TEACH the kids how to be calm.  How to refocus. And I finally realized it needed to start BEFORE lunch!

Before lunch, I call kids (one row at a time) to get water bottles and backpacks to put on desk/chair.  We keep our coats in our backpacks to save space and help closet stay neater. So when recess is over, this is what I have the kids do:

1. REPACK coat, gloves, hat, scarf into backpack and sit down. They come back into the classroom without talking and into a room with soft music and lighting.  I use Spotify and play classical music.  Avoid songs with words because then the kids will sing and ruin the calm atmosphere/mood. For some reason, I found that Ode to Joy/Canon in D works well and the kids love the versions I have. They come in, take off coats and squish into backpack and sit and drink water/relax.  The key: no talking. I made up my own mix of Ode to Joy and Canon in D but also use this:

2. RELAX: drink water to rehydrate.  I used to call kids and tell them when to put water away.  I now let them pick when is best for them.  I am always surprised HOW MUCH they drink which tells me I wasn't letting them drink enough.  I swear I think drinking water calms them!

3. BREATHE! I lead the kids in some deep breathing exercises and they love it.  Many are joining in and several are doing their own "zen" activity.  All done very quietly.

4. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: At this point, some kids are getting up WITH WATER BOTTLE AND BACKPACK to put away, get pencil, tissue, go to bathroom, write a compliment, etc.  It's usually a trickle of kids doing what they need/want to do.  Even having them be in charge of when they hang up backpack and put water bottle away seems to work better than when I told them to do it.

5. SET GOALS! At about 8 minutes in, I switch from leading breathing (although most kids continue to engage) and ask them to reflect on their morning.  We don't share out.  It's just to refocus them and reflect: What were you most proud of this morning? What activity did you enjoy?  Is their something that was difficult or frustrating for you? How did you persevere?  Then, I ask them to set a afternoon goal for math.  (That's the only subject we have left.)  I start off by naming MY GOAL for math.  It usually reflects back to yesterday's lesson.  For example: "My goal today is to explain the partner game better than I did yesterday.  What's your goal?" I give them a minute to think about it.  Then music goes off. Lights on. And I ask 3 kids to share goal with the class.  I am always amazed how their goal setting is so spot on for them.  And they are honest: "My goal is to be a better partner today because yesterday I didn't check to see if they jumped on the number line the right way."  Or "My Goal is to not ask to use the bathroom when I'm in a partner activity.  I'm going to try to wait for Math By Myself."

After the three kids share, I ask all kids to share out with partner across from them and then join me on the carpet.  Takes about 30 seconds.  Then, when all on carpet, we do one last 10 second deep breath activity together and then I say, "Hello, Mathematicians!" and they are ready and eager for math.

I'm not one to waste time during the day so to say I feel the ten minutes is worth it is an understatement.  I find that I actually SAVE time with the above schedule and make those ten minutes meaningful.

If you're not happy with the way your kids are coming in after recess, I hope some of my tips can help.  And if you have any tips for me, I'd love to hear them!

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