Saturday, January 7, 2017

Is Indoor Recess Driving You Crazy? Here's Help!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful ..."

Uh-oh. We all know what THAT means for teachers.

Here in NJ, it seems like the slightest thing can change recess plans. Snow, rain, well sure! But sometimes it's even things like muddy fields, "it might rain" {might???}, or temps under 45 degrees {yes, seriously, I've seen it happen!}. C'mon, these kids need to MOVE!

Whether your school has a supervised indoor recess in the gym for all classes {oh,my, the NOISE!} or you have the *joy* of supervising your own students in your own classroom, indoor recess is NO FUN for teachers!

There's an awful lot of pent-up student energy that needs to be released, or, as we all know,  you can kiss their attention goodbye during your afternoon lessons. And when indoor recess goes on for weeks and weeks,well, that's just not an option!

Let's take a quick look at a few ideas for how you can spread that energy throughout the day, regardless of where your students spend indoor recess times. I'll bet that you're already doing lots of these things, but I hope that you'll find some new ideas to try!

* Do you already give your students brain breaks? Super!! When it's indoor recess season, think about having brain breaks more frequently and with greater variety, in both morning and afternoon. Look for brain breaks that go beyond dancing or calisthenics to activities that also engage the brain - challenges like counting backwards while doing jumping jacks will improve your students' focus ... and also address curriculum - and I do love to hit two birds with one stone, don't you?

* Integrate movement into every lesson that you teach.  Here are just a few examples.

>  When you ask a yes/no question, have your students "vote" their answer with movement, by standing with arms waving over their heads or marching in place. Yes, it's craziness at first, but doing this not only gets your kids moving - they'll also listen to the question and directions more carefully, so it will improve listening skills!

>  Are you practicing skip counting? Have you ever tried doing windmills with your class? I sure do wish that I had a video to share, but no luck, so here goes: Children sit in their chairs (assuming that you still have chairs, right? :) If not, you can do your windmills standing up!) Alternate touching the right hand to the left shin, then both arms back up, then the left hand to the right shin. Since this activity involves crossing the midline, you're activating both sides of your students' brains - helping the skip counting info stick AND squeezing in some extra large muscle activity!

Visit OT Mom Learning Activities for more information on crossing the midline, and lots of ideas for incorporating this kind of active learning into your teaching day.

>  After a read aloud, retell the story, but not just with words. Get up and act the story out! Keep a supply of "character cards" ready to use - laminate sheets of 9X12 construction paper, punch two holes in the top corners and add a piece of yarn to make a card that you can quickly write a character name on (erasable marker, of course!) so your students can just slip them over their heads ... and slip right into character! As they improvise their retelling, encourage them to move dramatically rather than just talking.

>  Look for learning games that use large muscles, like hopping on a number line.  This is also a great time of year to think of those "throw the snowball" games that are all over Pinterest. You know the kind ... write a math model on a quarter sheet of recycled scrap paper, trade papers with a friend, solve and check, then crunch the paper into a "snowball" and take turns tossing them at a target, like a wastebasket ;). Five minutes of this kind of "snow play" is a great activity!

> Try these snowflake number line activities - they include large number cards to your students can build a number line and hop ... jump ... WHATEVER it takes to keep them moving!  

*  Most teachers already know how important is is to get our students up and out of their seats.

That being said, there are times when you really need to have everyone facing you and able to see the whiteboard.  Moving your students to the carpet is one alternative, but little bodies there tend to scrunch up instead of moving, and, in my own experience, our kiddos often need even more stretching, jumping, etc. after time on the carpet. 

Have you ever tried letting your students sit on top of their desks?  Most kids will start swinging their legs once they're up on top ... more big muscle movement!

*  Last but definitely not least, never underestimate the power of a good brisk walk! Whether it's inside or out, keep the pace quick and the arms swinging. Even a two minute walk will get the wiggles out and the brains oxygenated, ready to focus and learn again. 

Try a walk mid-morning and another right after recess, to get your class community gathered and refocused. Concerned about an administrator questioning the time spent on your walk? Call it PE, or plan your route to stop along the way for a brief discussion at an interesting bulletin board. Where there's a will, there's a way!

I hope you've found something new here to try. I'd love to hear what other tricks you use during your day to make those indoor recess days a bit smoother!

Happy Teaching!

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