There is a first grader named Nelson at my school who rarely participated in games during recess. Even during Class Game Time, he would always try to blend in with the group and play as little as possible.
Despite this, he was always extremely friendly and took to following me around and asking questions during recess. I would encourage him to join in various games, even joining in the games myself to help him feel comfortable, but he still expressed no interest.
One thing Nelson did take interest in was the way I would distribute playground balls at the beginning of recess. He intently watched as I had students line up in front of the ball bin and tell me which game they wanted to play.
I saw an opportunity for Nelson to engage with other students during this time, so I started to invite him to assist me in distributing playground balls. He took the task so seriously and did such a great job at it that I had him giving out balls by himself after only about a week.
This new responsibility helped Nelson interact with his peers, something he had been struggling with all year. Slowly, he started to build enough confidence to join in some small games during recess — once he had finished giving out all the playground balls. I also noticed him begin to participate in Class Game Time to a much larger degree.
Today, I can find Nelson playing many different games during recess. He still always starts recess with his job at the ball bin, but now he then quickly moves onto games like wallball or his favorite, kickball. On top of that, he is doing an important job that greatly helps me and the entire school. He is a great asset to the school community, and is always a positive presence on the playground.