For most kindergartners, recess is a new concept. On the first day of the school year, they often come out to the yard with wide, bright, and confused eyes. They see the play structure and most of them immediately gravitate toward it. Fortunately, I have first graders on the yard during the same recess, so some kindergartners followed their lead and jumped into games.
As time went on, a group of kindergartners and first graders started a mini kickball game, played on a large four square that has corners that resemble bases.
Now, as smart and mature as first graders may seem, the miniature kickball game still had its challenges. While I tried and tried over weeks and weeks, I couldn’t quite seem to instill the rule that during a home run, the runner only runs around the bases once; it was also difficult to enforce individuals to take turns in both the infield and outfield, amongst many other rules. Some players understood what was going on, while others just couldn’t seem to grasp rules at all. Alas, I had to put an end to mini kickball because I was constantly having to supervise it and wasn’t able to play any of the other games going on at that recess.
Since the San Francisco Giants had just won the World Series and I was trying to come up with a simpler game to play in the same area that was similar to kickball, I started “baseball fielding practice.” This meant I hit the Whiffle ball to the first student in line, the “fielder,” who had to field it, throw it to the “catcher” standing near me, who then threw the ball back to me and rotated to the end of the line, and then, finally, the fielder became the catcher. I did this for two weeks straight until I felt the players got the hang of the rotation. Since we lacked a t-ball tee stand, I found a tall industrial cone, and used that as the tee. I taught the usual players how to hit the ball off the tee toward the first person in line, who then fielded it, threw it to the catcher who then became the hitter. The hitter got to run around the bases once and then join the line. I supervised this new twist on baseball fielding practice for a couple days and then walked away from the game, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t hear yelling or see players pushing each other while I attempted to play four square, a game I had been neglecting for weeks.
To my surprise, “baseball” went off without a hitch the first day without my supervision. We have had little things happen here and there, mostly disputes over who got into line first, but the game runs itself and kindergartners make up the majority of its players. When kids have a simple set of play guidelines and expectations to follow, they learn how to run the games themselves . . . even if they are only five years old.
-Coach Kim, Fairmount Elementary