Structured Recess

Smith Valley School Active / Structured Recess:


Smith Valley school’s active, semi-structured, &  structured recess is a break from the school day that involves a variety of pre-taught expectations and guidelines to encourage inclusive and active recess time for our students.  Our objective is to provide an active recess that engages all students in playground activities and games.

The Goal of Active / Structured Recess is to:

  • increase physical activity

  • improve students health

  • support academic success

  • improve playground climate

How to achieve these goals?

  • Engage students in physical activity with various game & activity options

  • Improve behavior through increased activity opportunities and increased adult engagement

  • Build effective systems around recess

  • Have a variety of game and fitness equipment available

  • Teachers pre-teach protocols for use of equipment, fair play, and inclusiveness

  • Teachers prepare students to understand the value of increasing their physical activity through health lessons

Expected Outcomes:

Active recess increases the moderate to vigorous physical activity for our students.

  • Physical Benefits:  helps students reach the daily recommended 60 minutes of physical activity and avoid possible health problems, such as obesity, underdeveloped muscles and poor coordination. Center for Disease Control, Department of Adolescent and School Health

  • Cognitive Benefits – Physical activity is miracle grow for the brain.  Researchers have found an association between physical fitness and the brain in 9 - and 10 -year old children:  Those who are more fit tend to have a bigger hippocampus and perform better on a test of memory than their less fit peers. Journal of Brain Research, September 1010

  • Social Benefits – a positive playground climate provides opportunity to build relationship skills, practice responsible decision-making and exhibit self-management skills. Second Step Social Skills Curriculum (as provided by Guidance Counselor at Smith Valley School)

  • Emotional Benefits – recess is a venue for children to relieve stress and develop their social-awareness and self-awareness skills. Second Step Social Skills Curriculum (as provided by Guidance Counselor at Smith Valley School)

  • Teacher Benefits – students are able to stay on-task in the grouproom more often and decreases disruptive grouproom behavior. Recess:  Is it Needed in the 21st Century? By Rachel Sindelar


  • Students

    • Follow school-wide expectations

    • Play actively during recess

    • Choose either a daily activity or the game of the day

    • Use equipment appropriately, safely, & in correct area

    • Return equipment when done playing

    • Try new games

  • Playground Adults

    • Use active supervision

    • Move and Scan

    • Interact with students

    • Bring (or arrange with children to bring) equipment in and out for every recess

    • One person outside should Lead/facilitate “Game of the Day”

      • To plan games for Game of the Day:

        • Go to our website & click on the game descriptions.  There are 1000’s!  

        • Reference PE teacher’s manuals and activity books from the library

        • Ask our PE teacher for ideas

        • Google or search Pinterest for:  PE activities or ‘brain breaks’, and find literally 100’s of 1000’s of ideas!

    • One person outside must record ‘walking sticks’ records for student achievement.

    • Recognize students who are following expectations with verbal praise/SVS Pride Paws

  • Classroom Teachers

Everyday Games/Activities:

  • Running

  • Hula Hoop

  • Jump Rope

  • Monkey Bars

  • Basketball

  • Four Square

  • Swinging

  • Tag games - freeze, sports, etc.

  • Catch

  • Touch football

  • Soccer

  • Hopscotch

  • Sledding (seasonal)

  • Snowball target (seasonal)

Game of the Day Options:

Tips on picking teams in fair ways by Mr.

If you didn’t get a chance to plan one of the games referenced through websites, or you are a substitute and you can’t find the structured recess daily activity - you can try one of the following: (some are specifically for when we have inclement weather indoor recess, others for outside, and some could be modified for either).

Rock, Paper, Scissors - Catch:  Students are split into two equal teams. They get together in their teams and decide that the team as a whole is going to play 'rock', 'paper', or 'scissors'. They then “face off” at the centre line of a gym or field and on the count of three they play their rock, paper, or scissors.

Remember, paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, and scissors beats paper.

Whoever wins then chases the other team to the end line of the field or gym and catches as many people as they can on the way. Those that are caught now join the other team.

The game continues until all the players from one team are caught. This game is suitable for all ages.

Star Wars Dodgeball:

All the kids have a ball each and throw the balls at the other team.

The first team to have all the other team sat down wins. When a player is hit, they must sit down. One person on each side is a secret Jedi Knight and has the power to touch his team mates who are sat down. Once he has touched them, they can rejoin the game. Teams have to figure out who the jedi is on each team, as when the jedi gets hit by a ball, nobody else can be saved.

Sticky Witches:

Split children into groups and give all the groups a place in the play area where they have to sit/stand when they've been tug (which means they're out).

Choose 1/2/3 people to be 'on' (depending how big the groups are). Make the children who aren't on sit on the floor, cross legged with hands on heads. The children who are on have to do 5 jumps of their choice and on the 4th, the sitting kids have to get up and run off, avoiding the tiggers. The tiggers aim is to tig everyone before a time limit is up.

When they have been tug the kids must stand in their designated areas and reach out, trying to tig those still not tug.

Line Basketball:

1) Divide the group into two lines of players facing each other.

2) Number each player in each line - for example one side are numbers #1-15 and the other line are numbers #1-15 so that the lines form partners facing each may be wise for the teacher to ask the children to line up across from someone of equal basketball ability...

3) Place two basketballs in between the lines which are 3 metres or 10 feet apart facing each other ...

4) The teacher explains that he / she will call the first number from 1-15 and those two players must race to the 2 basketballs in front of the two lines of players (half way into each line), i.e.


0 0


5) Once the ball is retrieved by the two players (i.e., #7's), they pass the ball to each player down their line.. one player passes to their teammates one way, the other team goes the other way.

6) Both players chest pass down the line to each teammate and once reaching the end of all passes tries to make a basket shooting from outside the key. The first player to score a basket gets one point for their team. If a player misses, he/she keeps shooting from outside the key... play continues until one of the basketballs goes in from the two competing players...

7) After one basketball goes in, both balls are returned to the centre between the two lines facing each other and the losing player gets to yell the next number from 1-15...Play the game up to 10 points (which requires up to 20 numbers called so everyone gets a turn)


  • if the group is odd numbered the teacher gets to play as the last number (it is not usually recommended for a teacher to play with the group!)

  • but this is a very light, controlled activity and the group has great fun watching the teacher compete in a low organizational activity against a student

  • instead of a jump shot outside the key allow a lay up

  • instead of a basketball use another light ball like a playground ball

  • allow players to shoot from closer

  • instead of the chest pass dribble in and out in a zig zag between teammates..

This is a highly energetic exciting game with lots of cheering and nail biting... enjoy!

Through the Hoop:

Split the children into groups of about 10 then ask the groups to form circles.  Give each group a hoop and ask them to link hands placing the hoop in the circle over the arms of two of the children. The children then have to step through the hoop without unlinking hands.  The first team to get the hoop back to where it started wins.  Cheaters have to start again!

Passing Skills:

This simple activity involves passing a ball from one end of the line to another. The children should throw to the person standing diagonally opposite them (as shown in the diagram below) and they should aim to be as quick as possible, while still being accurate. Any type of ball is suitable, although a larger ball may be more appropriate for younger children.Passing Layout

There are a number of variations to this activity:

WHOLE group - The whole group can take part, trying to pass the ball up the line without dropping it. The activity can also be timed, with the children aiming to move the ball from one end to the other as quickly as possible. They could also compete to beat their previous times.

GROUPS - Working in groups, the children can practice their passing skills without the pressure of trying to be as quick as possible.

TEAMS - The group can be split into teams, competing against each other to be the fastest group.

The activity can be made harder by moving the two lines further apart and by using a smaller ball. This could also be used as an activity to develop football passing skills.

A word of warning - If someone drops a ball (especially in timed games), others may get angry with that child. Before the lesson, remind them that they should work as a team, encouraging each other, and helping those who make mistakes.

Witches, Goblins & Monsters

If you have a smaller group with 10-18 students, this game will get them running and laughing.

Rule of the game: Witches chase Goblins, Goblins chase Monsters, and Monsters chase Witches.

Split the group into two even groups. Each group huddles in a corner and decides whether they want to be a Witch, Goblin, or Monster. When both groups have secretly decided, they stand in the middle of the gym facing each other. On the count of three one person from each group yells out what they are (Witches, Goblins, or Monsters). One group is chasing the other group or running from the other group depending on what they decided they were going to be. Example: If group one chose Witches, and group two chose Monsters....then group one runs to their safe home base because Monsters chase Witches. Whom ever is tagged joins the other team for the next round. To repeat the activity, groups should then return to a huddle and choose what they want to be.

Pass the Hoop:

This is excellent for building co-operation, and I've tried it successfully with all primary ages.

  • Children stand in a ring holding hands.

  • A hoop is placed between two children.

  • The hoop has to pass round the ring without breaking contact.

It does help to use a smaller hoop for younger infants.

Raft Game:  Divide the group into small groups.

  • Give each group 2 gym mats.

  • Start the teams at one end of hall, and tell the children that they have to move to the other end without touching the floor, i.e. start on one mat, jump to the next, pass the back mat forward and repeat the sequence.

  • If any of the teams touches the floor, you might want to send them back to the start!

This is a great way to encourage the children to co-operate and builds team spirit.

Extension ideas for this activity:

  • As the children are making their way across the hall/yard, one of them should be blindfolded.  This makes the team think more carefully.

  • In the middle of the hall you could place some sort of obstacle that the teams have to climb over or go under.

  • You could also put a time limit on the game.

  • You could make the mats smaller or give the teams sacks that can only take 4/5 pupils at one time.  This now means that one member has to make several trips back and forward.  I call this one 'The Ferryman'.

  • If you're feeling really mean you could encompass all of the above in one game.

variation to this idea:  Have 2 equal teams at one end of the hall with 2 mats per team. The floor is the sea and the mats are the boats. The aim is to get to the other end of the hall without touching the water. Children have to work together using both mats.  Progression - add cones as obstacles or 'icebergs' in the sea they have to avoid. Or, give each team a ball as a cannon. They get 5 shots to hit the other team. If they get hit they are out.

Reaction Game

Children get into groups of 2 or 3 with a ball. Place the ball in the middle of the group The teacher shouts commands to the children which they follow e.g. touch your head, touch your toes, jump on one foot etc. As soon as the teacher shouts "ball", the children need to grab the ball as quick as they can. The person who gets the ball first wins. This can be adapted by using your feet to drag the ball back on the command of "ball".

Line Ball

Throwing/catching/passing skills. Set up the play area with a line at each end, and a row of cones/markers down middle to divide the space into two halves. You will also need a large soft ball for the children to throw. Divide the group into two teams and give one team armbands or bibs. Team 1 should be in one half of the court, team 2 in the other. Both teams choose a goalie, who stands on the line in the opposition's half of the court.The idea of the game is for players to throw the ball to their goalie without it being caught by the other team. As teams score goals, the scoring player joins the goalie on the line. Children pass the ball between themselves until someone decides to shoot.  Once children have the idea, introduce rules such as:

  • team 1 get a free pass if team 2 throw/catch the ball outside the boundaries

  • If a player has the ball they cannot move their feet apart from to change direction

  • A goal is only valid if the goalie catches the ball when feet are on the line

Variation: All players on the line are allowed to catch a ball that is thrown to them from a team-mate. This variation permits maximum participation of students. The games go more quickly, I imagine, but we changed starting goalies and have another round.

Hoop Activity:Hoop Instructions

For this activity, students should work in groups of four. They should then split into pairs, and each pair of children should stand about 15 m apart. Each group of four children should have one large hoop (big enough for two children to fit inside).

Instructions: One pair stands in a hoop, and, without using their hands, lift up the hoop. Then, staying inside the hoop, they should run to the other pair. When they reach the second pair, the first pair should drop the hoop. The second pair should then pick it up (no hands!), and run to the original marker and back again (with both students in the hoop). The first pair then stand in the hoop, pick it up without using their hands and, with both students in the hoop, run back to the starting point.

Important Points:  Remember to reinforce the importance of safety during the activity, and the fact that students have to cooperate in order to complete the task.

Hop in a Hoop

Scatter hoops of varying sizes around the hall or gym.  Call out an instruction for travelling around the hoops (not going in them yet though). When you call out a number that is how many children must get into each hoop.  For groups reluctant to work with children of opposite sex you can call out 'a boy and girl' and they must get into a hoop. Children must not push other children out of the hoop even if they have too many. Also all parts of body must be in hoop - no toes over edge. If too many or not enough children in hoop all those involved are out.

Bean Bag Scramble

Divide the group into two teams and tell them to go on opposite sides of the gym.Place an odd number of bean bags (at least two per child) on the center line (spread out to avoid collisions). At each end of the gym place a box or bin (as their goal).  On “go” children run to the center, grab a bean bag (only one at a time allowed) and take it back to put in their team’s box, run back and do it again. Once all the bean bags are in goals the children count how many they have. The team with the most bean bags wins.

You can make the game more challenging by telling the children that they have to toss it & catch it all the way back to their goal or have them skip, slide, etc.  Balls may be used to develop skills such as dribbling, or passing (each child would have a partner). Repeat to give the other team a chance to win.

Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag is a favorite game to play outdoors.There are two teams. Team 1 has the front yard and Team 2 has the back yard, or a field is split between the two teams. The teams are given a time period (e.g. 5 minutes) to hide their flag in their part of the yard.  [optional] During this period spies were sent out to see where the flag was hidden as well as look-outs to catch the spies.  When the flag is hidden you call out that you are finished. Then you simply try to get the other team’s flag. If you get caught and tagged by the opponent on their territory you had to go to jail and could only be freed by a teammate who grabs you when your opponent isn't looking.  The first team to capture the flag wins. In most versions you had to both get the flag, and bring it back to your side.

Untying the Knot

This is a very simple (but fun) activity, and although it is not particularly physical, it encourages the children to work together to solve the problem that they have been set.

1) Arrange the children into groups (an even number of children - between 8 and 12 - in each group)

2) Tell the children to stand in a tight circle (facing inwards). Everyone should put their left hand in the circle, and hold someone else's left hand.

3) Now everyone, should put in their right hand, and hold someone else's right hand.

4) WITHOUT letting go of each other's hands, the children should untangle themselves! It is possible, if they work as a team.

Variation:  A way of simplifying this, if necessary, is to use the version I played as a child - we called it Doctor, Doctor! The idea is all but one child (who goes away or turns their back) stands in a circle and holds hands. They then tangle themselves without letting go of hands. This can be done by going under or over a pair of linked hands, turning round in your place, sitting down and have people climb over, etc. The group then shout "Doctor, doctor!" (obviously optional) and the child has to return to the group and untangle them. It should have a good success rate as what has been done should be able to be undone! The group will encourage solving the problem as they are often rather uncomfortable! Hope this helps.

Catching Balloons

With a mixed age group consisting of Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, I noticed that their hand-eye co-ordination and catching skills were poor. I started by pairing children up and giving each pair a balloon which they had to hit to each other. If it touched the floor, the sharks would eat it.

Next I split the group into two teams and stood them either side of a tennis net (or line). The children then played a volleyball style game using the balloon. Adding extra balloons meant nobody was standing still for long. As the balloons fall so slowly, it gives the children more of a chance to hit the 'ball', building confidence, and if it does fall on the floor, they don't spend half the lesson chasing balls.