Life on the Playground by VJ Stanley
Updated: Feb 15, 2020
As a primary school teacher for the last 10 plus years, I have always loved taking my classes out onto the playground. You get to know your students in a whole different way as you watch them "free play". Children spend a large part of their days being told what and when they are going to do things and ways to think about things. Teachers place them into homogeneous groups and heterogeneous groups to work on problems. Many primary teachers also assign seats so students are told where to sit and whom to sit next to. (There are many sound educational reasons that these decisions happen.)
Enter...the playground. Recess, it's most kids favorite part of the school day. I have students who cannot tell time, but they know when recess happens. If we ever miss recess, half the class lets me know it.
As we burst out of the school onto the playground, choices happen and groups form almost instantly. You have the group who loves to swing on the swings and see whose feet can touch the sky first. Then there is another group who imagines they are the "good" guys and the other group who are the "bad" guys (they have to take turns on this one), and they run full speed ahead trying to catch each other. Then you have the group who are competing to see who can get across the overhead ladder the fastest. And then the group who just likes to hang out under the slide chatting.
Leaders of those groups form and it is interesting to see how that leadership takes shape. If leaders don't think about the group as a whole, they are quickly ignored, and possibly avoided, and the group quickly follows another who values the group's wishes. All of these decisions happen without an adult orchestrating the process. Students who might not get the opportunity to lead, because maybe physical prowess is not valued in the classroom, get the chance to shine. Their self esteem soars!