Teaching Positive Language on the Playground

  1. Updates

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. 

According to a 2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 students report being bullied, and 33% of elementary school students report being bullied often. Bullying increases the risk for mood disorders (such as depression and anxiety), lowers academic achievement, and increases school dropout rates, and bullying tends to thrive where there are the largest amount of students and the least amount of supervision, with over 70% of incidents happening on school playgrounds. That’s where Playworks step in.

At Playworks, there is a strong emphasis on promoting positive language and communication both on the recess yard and in the entire school community. We have seen that when you integrate positive language in these spaces, students will embrace it and begin to practice it on their own, reducing the rate of bullying.

So how can we naturally teach these lessons on the playground? Here are some of our suggestions:

    1. Teach games that require positive communication. Some Playworks favorites include Ants on a Log, Alligator Swamp, or the Maze Game, all which require players to work together towards a common goal. Before beginning, be sure that you discuss what are helpful and positive ways to talk to your teammates.
    2. Use “appreciations” to close out recess. Appreciations are simple! Simply give students space to verbalize positive things that they saw their classmates doing during recess, such as giving out high fives or encouraging a teammate. Creating a community where students recognize other students’ successes will not only promote that kind of behavior in the rest of the group, but also boost positive communication. For an added bonus, try out an Appreciation Clap such as the Fortnite Clap or Mosquito Clap!
    3. Encourage compliments during the game, not just after! It’s easy to get consumed in a game when you’re playing, so make it a habit for players to pass encouragement to each other as part of the game. For example, when the kicker and goalie switch during Penalty Kick Soccer, have them exchange words of encouragement or a “Good job!”, regardless of who was more successful in the game.
    4. Highlight the positive behavior that you already see. Transitioning from recess to the classroom can be chaotic, so focus on reinforcing the positive behaviors you’re witnessing rather than the negative. For example, say “I love the way that Student A is waiting quietly in line!” to draw attention to the desired behavior. Similarly during recess, using language such as “I love the way that Student A is encouraging their teammates!” or “Way to encourage each other by giving high fives!” is promoting the kind of communication that you want to see by using that same encouraging language.

By teaching the importance of positive language and encouragement to students at a young age, we hope to break the cycle of bullying not only on the recess yard, but within the entire school. Kids should feel included and safe at school and on the playground, and one major step of that is teaching them how to communicate positively with one another.

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