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Playground Pass Creates Recess Success

If you've done recess duty, you know the playground is not all fun and games! Wouldn't you love a simple, straightforward teaching tool that steers students away from trouble and into recess success? The Playground Pass does just that! Built on sound behavior principles, it's a system that classroom teachers and playground monitors can use together to help kids make positive choices during free play. Included: Links to the reproducible Playground Pass system and other free resources!

"During my first few years at Fleming School (Manitoba, Canada), I found that my students generally managed their behaviors reasonably well inside the school building," said Rick Oakden, an elementary special education teacher. "It was outside at recess that their behavioral problems usually occurred. Too often, they would get detentions for events that happened during these more loosely supervised times of the school day.

"I wanted my students to be engaged in real play activities," Oakden told Education World, "not just walking and talking on the playground. They needed to select a pro-social activity on their own to replace their inappropriate behaviors."

From the
Education World

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Using his 18 years of experience in behavior management as a foundation, Oakden developed the Playground Pass system, a short-term behavior program that helps students practice positive playground experiences. Field-tested and refined by Oakden over the past four years, the Playground Pass system is an effective tool that helps students make better choices during less-structured school times. The reproducible system offers a template and easy-to-follow instructions on program implementation.


"Let's say a teacher has received numerous complaints about the same two students," said Oakden. "The students are following other kids, bugging them, name-calling, then running away. The students have not responded to discussions with the teacher. The Playground Pass system requires them to replace their inappropriate behaviors with the pro-social activity they have selected and written on the pass or experience the consequence of losing some recess time."

Students who use Playground Pass are responsible for picking up their passes, filling them out, and handing them to the recess monitor. They are then required to participate in their selected activities for the entire recess. At the end of a successful recess period, the recess monitor signs the passes. Students are responsible for returning the passes to their classroom teachers.

Plenty of positive reinforcement is built right into the Playground Pass system. "On each successful recess outing," Oakden explained, "the students engage in some enjoyable activity with peers and at least two positive exchanges with adults -- the teacher on duty and the classroom teacher."

As an added benefit, the Playground Pass system allows other students to observe teachers and staff helping students manage challenging behaviors in a caring and positive way.

The system also provides for a safer, better-monitored recess environment. Playground supervisors and classroom teachers support one another while helping students experience recess success.

"At first, most students see it as a negative restriction on their activities," Oakden told Education World. "Once they understand the Playground Pass rules and that I mean to see it through, they treat it seriously and try to cooperate."


"In the situations in which we've used it, it's always been successful," Elaine Pilloud told Education World. Pilloud is one of Oakden's colleagues at Fleming School.

"Rick and I used the Playground Pass with a group of pre-teen girls who periodically set up 'sides' and squared off against one another," Pilloud recalled. "They gossiped, and there was lots of 'If you play with her, you're not my friend.' The Playground Pass was helpful because the students didn't have the opportunity to sit around and chitchat. They had to be accountable for their time.

"We generally don't need to use it for very long," Pilloud explained. "Four or five days seems ample. Now that I think of it, these girls haven't shown a need for the system in quite a while. I guess that demonstrates its effectiveness!"

"I have had about 500 hits per month on the Free Resources page on my Web site," Oakden told Education World. "The Playground Passes have been on that page for about two years. I have received thank-yous for sharing the Playground Passes and positive comments from teachers who want to try the system with their class."


Dr. Mac's Amazing Behavior Management Advice Site
This site was created by a former teacher of students with behavior disorders and learning disabilities who is now a professor of special education at Hunter College of the City University of New York. The site provides an advice bulletin board, tips on managing student behavior and handling aggression, and an extensive "how-to" list of behavioral techniques.

The Behavior Home Page
The Kentucky Department of Education and the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Kentucky are collaborating on this Web page on student behavior. School personnel, parents, and other professionals gain access to information, share effective practices, and receive ongoing consultation and technical assistance concerning the full range of behavior problems and challenges displayed by children and youth in school and community settings.

Article by Leslie Bulion
Education World®
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Links last updated 08/16/2011