December 6, 2023

Skills to teach during recess

Do you have social skills or gross motor IEP goals? Social skills, gross motor skills, and self-help skills are some of the skills students learn when they play at recess. As an early childhood special education teacher, I constantly monitor IEP goals related to social skills and tracking student developmental stages. Watch me teach, monitor and track skills during breaks.

Student A helps Student B balance on the beam
Student A helps Student B balance on the beam

What skills should I teach?

In early childhood, I have a booklet of developmental milestones by age. This is something that can be easily found online. I also have a program called AEPS that provides me with an assessment and curriculum to address these milestones. I can use that to guide me on where to start with a student, but usually all of these skills are skills that everyone needs.

First, I review the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), if they have one. I watch them for the first few days and notice anything that catches my eye. If they have an IEP goal related to social skills or gross motor skills, I will monitor and teach. Skills that can be taught during recess are: Initiating play, conflict resolution, self-help, walking/running on uneven surfaces, climbing, social cues, asking for help, taking turns, sharing and playing with others. Once I know what I need to address, I can start teaching using strategies.

What strategies should I use?

Students waiting in line - pretending to order an ice scream
Students waiting in line – pretending to order an ice scream

Some favorite strategies I use to teach/work on skills during recess are: modeling, repetition, practice, using visuals and social stories. When working on social skills, I model what the expected behavior is. If I decide a social story is appropriate, I’ll usually give a lesson before the break. Students repeat much of what they learn. Whether it’s climbing, playing tag without pushing, holding hands together, checking friends when they fall, starting a game, tagging, etc. I have students try the skills multiple times in a row. Visuals are used to support what is being taught. To teach mainly through the natural environment.

All in all, it doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes and takes place mostly in the form of a game. For example, I will go play tag with them or model up and down the stairs. This seems to be the most effective and is usually done a few times a week (unless they need extra help) and I never keep them on hiatus.

steps on the playground - used to monitor gross motor skills
Steps on the playground – used to monitor gross motor skills

How can I track the progress of these skills?

aeps-3 rating example
AEPS-3 assessment
Sample IEP goals that can be addressed during recess
Sample IEP goals that can be addressed during recess

Many of my kids mostly have social skills goals that I track. Pre-made charts can be found online or I will create charts specific to a given skill. I usually track progress through observation. Using anecdotal notes and pictures to keep records is really important to me. Worksheets are not used in Pre-K, so I take many pictures throughout the week to share with parents, which also count as evidence of any goals they may be working on.

I used the AEPS-3 curriculum and a progress monitoring checklist to keep track of progress or lack thereof. I recommend Simply Special Ed. Data sheets. Use what works best for you. The most important part of tracking is knowing where they started and where they are now. How you organize it is up to you. Again, I use a lot of visuals that I send to parents and add to students’ online portfolios. Keeping an open line of communication with parents is also essential! Did this blog help you? Check out the skills to teach during lunch.

Yalie, an early childhood special education teacher

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