How to Teach Students Playground and Recess Rules

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how to teach students playground rules back to school beginning of school year free reader book reading passage

Teaching rules and procedures is an important part of any classroom teacher’s first weeks of school lesson plans.  As almost any teacher will tell you, most discipline and/or social struggles occur not in the classroom setting but instead during unstructured time such as lunch, recess, or the bus.  To help set my students up for a successful year, I dedicate a lot of time during the first few weeks of school to teaching playground rules and conflict resolution.  Below are my best tips.

Teach and Demonstrate Playground Equipment

how to teach students playground rules back to school beginning of school year free reader book reading passage

Before students are allowed to go on playground equipment, take your class for a walk around the playground.  Teach students how you want them to use every piece of equipment.  Also, use this time to discuss playground boundaries and what happens if the rules are not followed.  As you discuss the procedures with your class, make sure to also discuss why the rules are in place: to keep everyone safe!  If possible, ask your school’s Physical Education teacher/s to incorporate playground expectations into their plans during the first days of school.

Teach Conflict Resolution

playground recess conflict resolution problem solving back to school beginning of school year

Disagreements and hurt feelings are going to happen during recess.  One of the most important activities that I do in the first days of school is to teach students about Kelso’s Choice Wheel of Choice.  The Wheel of Choice teaches students strategies for conflict resolution, and it’s perfect for discussing common recess issues students encounter.  As a class, we talk about situations students might encounter on the playground such as someone hurting their feelings, having no one to play with, having a disagreement with a friend, etc.  We then use the Wheel of Choice to come up with solutions and act them out.  When students encounter a problem, we use the Wheel of Choice to empower and guide students to find a solution to their problem. 

Use Children’s Literature to Discuss Playground Rules and the Importance of Treating Others Kindly

I love using children’s literature to teach rules and concepts and to have rich conversations as a class.  Here are my top recommendations for books that teach playground etiquette.

Manners on the Playground Book rules back to school beginning of year

Manners on the Playground is a perfect book to read to your class before visiting the playground for the first time.  It discusses the fact that we go to the playground to have fun, and in order to have fun and keep everyone safe, we need playground rules.  Each page in the book covers a different piece of playground equipment, as well, and how students can use manners (such as showing patience and kindness and nice words) with their friends.

The Buddy Bench playground recess rules back to school beginning of the year book friendship kindness

The Buddy Bench is a sweet book to add to any school or classroom collection.  It discusses how sometimes we might feel sad on the playground and need a friend to play with.  In the book, there is a Buddy Bench where students can go to and sit if they ever find themselves in such a situation.  The book teaches the purpose of the bench and encourages children to invite students on the bench to play.  If your school does not have a Buddy Bench, you can invite your students to come up with an area of the playground to designate as a Buddy area.

Rulers of the Playground Book for teaching playground recess rules back to school beginning of yearFinally, rulers of the playground is about some students who want to become in charge of the playground and tell others what to do.  In the end, the book teaches that bossing others isn’t fun after all.  The playground is most fun when students are kind to each other, play together, and share with each other.

Give Students a Copy of Their Own Book or Text About Playground Rules

After teaching, discussing, and acting out playground rules, give students a book or text about the playground rules to keep for themselves!  Giving students a book or text about a topic they are familiar with will help give them ownership of the topic.  Students will be excited to read the book or text to a partner in class or take the book or text home to teach their families about the playground rules!  

Speaking of giving students a copy of their own playground rules book or text, I have a freebie for you!  I have created an emergent reader for younger students (with illustrations they can color) and a reading passage for older students all about playground rules and why we have rules in the first place.  

Free Book Emergent Reader for Teaching Primary Students Playground Rules at Beginning of School Year Reading Passage 1st First Grade 2nd Second

Playground Rules Emergent Reader and Reading Passage


Free Playground Reader and Reading Passage to teach Playground Rules Back to School Beginning of School Year First Grade Second Grade

A Page Sample of the Playground Rules Emergent Reader

To receive your FREE copy of both the emergent reader and reading passage in your inbox, just complete the form below.  Enjoy!

How do you teach your students about playground rules?  In the comments section, share your suggestions with other teachers!