When I first started as a teacher working with children over 20 years ago, I quickly learned that one of the hardest things to do is to teach children how to problem solve on the playground. In the early part of my career, the easiest way for me to do that was to solve their problems for them. While that may have been good for the students, it wasn’t for me because I was tired all of the time. Teachers can learn from my experience that if you make yard games a part of your lesson for at least the first week that kids are back at school, you will find the rest of the day easier to teach.
I first started with the game, Rock, Paper, Scissors, that the school that I currently work at had us use with the kids on the yard. Then, I noticed while this way was good, it didn’t work as much as it should. So, I decided to start from there, tweak it and then I came up with two other methods. While none of these methods are innovative, I do know that they work because as soon as I implemented all of these techniques for just one week, I went from being exhausted on the yard by Thursday to feeling more energized throughout the week.
Kids should try to see if they can problem-solve and talk things out on their own at least once. If they can’t and they need more tools, then teachers and kids should try one of these games.
3 Games Teachers Can Use to Help Kids Problem-Solve on the Yard
R(Rock, Paper, Scissors) - In this game, participants battle with hand signals of either “rock,” “paper,” or “scissors,” and the most powerful hand signal wins. The yard teacher monitors the situation and makes sure the game play is fair. This game should always be your first choice because children already know what this game is. The only change that I would make is that children should keep their hands in front of their bodies visible just above their waist instead of behind them so that they cannot keep changing their signs.
P(Pick a number between 1-10) - Children choose a number between 1 and 10 for this game. The teacher monitors that the numbers are in the range and also that kids do not change their number during game play.
F(Flip a coin) - This game will only work if there is an adult nearby who does not mind lending a coin. Children should not use their own money for this game so that they are not attached to it. The adult picks up the coin after it has been flipped because I have found that if the kid picks it up, they might turn it to their chosen side. This game is very effective because the kids have to ask an adult for the coin and, in some ways, going to ask an adult for a coin breaks up the tension among participants.
Frequency and Timing for Using the Games
Normally, using these games is something I would suggest doing at the start of the year or whenever you are returning from a longer, holiday break. But, since many schools have been closed until now and are on the verge or reopening, I would like to encourage all teachers to talk with your students about these methods on the first day that they return. Teachers need to be able to repeat these games over one week at least for it to work. It should be part of their lesson plan and planned for before the kids go outside to the yard.
Why these 3 Games Help Teachers Avoid Burnout
By doing this, teachers will increase their preparation time, their energy both at school and at home so they have more time to take care of their students at school and themselves at home.
As a whole, these three techniques can be used to teach kids about empathy by teaching them to listen to each more and to think about what they are going to say before they actually do. Kids might not always follow the rules, but if teachers remind them periodically about them, they will have a much more enjoyable time teaching in the end. Summer may only be a little more than 3 months away, but we don’t want it to feel like an eternity.
If I can convince a teacher to get a system in place, then they can extend their career by a few more years since they won’t burn out early.
I’d be curious to hear how these 3 games work for you in managing your students. Message me to tell me how it went.