Days like today, when school starts late or not at all due to snow, remind me of earlier in my career when I taught elementary school and outside recess would move inside because of snow, rain, excess heat, or some other inclement weather. What is a teacher to do? Kids – AND teacher – need a brain break…time to relax and something to do that deviates from the normal routine.
Sometimes group games are fun but there are times when the teacher would like to use the recess time to catch up on grading or prepare for the next segment of class time. It is those times when having several independent group activities prepared is very helpful.
One of my fellow teachers, who I considered a mentor, had a great idea for inside recess-type times. She prepared 8-10 boxes (she used clear plastic boxes with snap-on lids that measured approx. 20 in x 12 in. x 4 in) that contained enough crafts or activities for anywhere from 8-10 kids. Each box contained only 1 activity but there were enough “copies” of each for those 8-10 participants. For example, if the activity inside the box involved making animal masks out of paper plates, inside that box she would have enough supplies to make 8-10 animal masks. She put enough supplies for one mask inside of a gallon ziplock bag and then made 8-10 of those bags for the box. Then, when it was time for inside recess she pulled the boxes out of her closet and students could choose which activity they wanted to do, get the corresponding ziplock bag and work by themselves or with a friend.
Every 6 weeks, she would change out the activities in the boxes so that the activities were always something new and fresh. Oftentimes at least some of the activities corresponded with the time of year. On top of each of the boxes, she affixed a picture of the activity or a completed example so that the students could see what they were choosing.
When inside recess is a necessity and you need the time to prepare for later in the day, use these activity boxes to keep the kids, happy, busy, and learning – with little need for direct guidance from you.