Bullying Prevention Tips for Recess Monitors

Learn how to reduce bullying on the playground

picture of swings on a playground

Recess is the time when kids connect with friends, participate in physical activity and get some fresh air. But it’s also a time when bullying can occur. With a large number of kids and a limited number of adults, recess is often a hot spot for bullying incidents. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With proper evaluation of a school’s recess program and effective training of recess supervisors, recess can become a productive part of a student’s day.

In fact, a study from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University found that an effective recess program not only reduces bullying but it also improves student behaviors at recess and facilitates learning. Moreover, an effective recess program can equal fewer disruptions during class and more time for teaching and learning.

To help make your school’s recess program more effective, here are eleven bullying prevention tips for recess supervisors.

Evaluate the school’s recess and playground program. Look for blind spots where bullying might occur out of the sight of adults. Make adjustments if there are play areas that are out of line-of-sight or out of hearing-range. Consider designating certain areas for particular games. For instance, if there are set areas for playing tag or jumping rope, this will alleviate some playground scuffles over space.

Increase adult supervision. Most bullying occurs when adults are not around.

So it is important that recess supervisors are not only visible to students but also attentive to what is transpiring around them. Consider having the recess supervisors circulate periodically throughout all areas of the playground and its perimeter. Another option is to assign supervisors to set areas.

Use active supervision. With active supervision, recess monitors circulate continuously through an assigned area rather than congregating in one area and chatting among themselves. While they are circulating they should be praising positive behavior and helping children solve problems if necessary.

Provide training. Once changes are made to the playground policies, train supervisors on how to monitor the playground effectively. Be sure they know what constitutes bullying and how to respond effectively. Teach them how to deal with physical fights and other dangerous playground situations.

Establish a method of communication. Be sure that your monitors have a way to coordinate supervision and call for additional support when needed. Some schools use hand-held radios others use various whistle commands. For instance, three short whistles would signify that help is needed in a particular area.

Hold an assembly. The purpose of the assembly is to inform students and teachers about changes to recess policies. It’s also a good time to go over playground expectations and activities. Comment specifically on the issue of bullying and encourage bystanders to report incidents.

Guide kids' play behaviors.

For instance, suggest  age-appropriate activities for children during school recess. If kids congregate in an area but do not actually play, have a supervisor suggest several games they could play instead. Providing at least one structured activity will go a long way in encouraging cooperative play and less rough play and bullying.

Treat students with warmth and respect. Recess supervisors, like other adults at the school, need to communicate that they are available to listen and to help students. In general, kids have a hard time reporting bullying. If a recess monitor gives the impression that they don’t want to be bothered, then the bullying will likely go unreported.

Learn to distinguish between normal conflict and bullying. Conflict is a normal part of life but bullying is not. It’s important that recess supervisors be able to tell the difference between unkind behavior and bullying.

Take immediate action. Failure to respond immediately when bullying does occur communicates that it is not a big deal. Additionally, inaction will cause bullying to escalate at the school, specifically at recess. Bullies believe that they can get away with more and targets believe that no one is going to intervene.

Remember bullying impacts learning. Making efforts to address and to prevent bullying at school will increase your school's academic success. Countless studies show that bullying negatively impacts learning for all students – even for bystanders. If you want your school to be academically successful be sure you are addressing bullying on the playground.