Compassvale Primary School

SPORTS CHAMPION-LED UNSTRUCTURED STRUCTURED RECESS PLAY

Introduction

In Compassvale Primary School, “Let’s Move”, is a programme for a fun-filled recess, is managed by students for the students. As a structured avenue for unstructured play, students have the opportunity to develop their social-emotional well-being and extend their classroom learning. Through playing, students actively seek experiences, interactions and create fond memories of their years in Compassvale Primary School. 

How it began 

“Let’s Move” began with the main intention of giving students time to “move” and “play”. Back in 2017, our recess programme was put on hold as several common problems kept surfacing. The problems include the safety of students during play, deployment to keep the programme running, the availability of equipment and its loaning process as well as the level of student engagement. 

Our team went back and forth the drawing board several times and tested a number of solutions till we arrived at a consensus that we needed to develop a strong Sports Champion framework, a student leadership arm aimed at grooming students with sporting talent, for “Let’s Move” to be successful. 

Safety and Deployment 

Without a structure in place, through teacher observations and student and teacher interviews, we observed the following: 

  • There was an increase in the number of injuries and disagreements amongst the students
  • Everyone wanted to play a different game at the same place and no one wanted to play together (really unlike how we grew up!)
  • Teachers were feeling taxed by the complexity of the duty during recess: Do I let the students play? What should they be playing? Am I supposed to referee? 

Instead of recess being fun, it was becoming increasingly difficult even for the students. 

With the Sports Champions leadership framework in place, it allowed us to build a structure for recess that would enable unstructured play to be carried out within reasonable boundaries. 

The role of the Sports Champion was to:

  • Put up and tear down set-ups of assigned games at playing areas with clear demarcation and queuing points. 

This reduced the likelihood of injuries resulting from a lack of organisation and overcrowding. 

  • Ensure fairness for all as Sports Champions manage and monitor students at each playing area. 

Teachers on duty were able to play a different role, only stepping in to solve major problems

Equipment Loaning Process 

The process of loaning equipment out to students has long been an inefficient one. The team had to deploy a staff member, usually the Allied Educator/ Teaching & Learning (AED/T&L), to operate a loaning station along with a highly manual process of exchanging a student ID for a piece of equipment. Problems that would plague us included the following: 

  • damaged and lost equipment
  • unclaimed Student IDs
  • reminding students to return equipment at the end of recess 

These were on top of the fact that the job scope of an AED/T&L was changing and would soon be phased out. It did not make sense to continue with this structure and we were not prepared to spend money on technology that may not even solve the problem. 

Students started to bring their own equipment citing their frustrations with the process, disrupting lessons with their equipment and indirectly forming exclusive social circles of who could and could not play. They played at unsuitable venues, disrupting lessons in neighbouring classes in the process. 

For starters, we began sourcing a variety of mobile equipment that would be easy for the Sports Champions to learn to use. Together with the Sports Champions, our team was able to tackle the core issues and smoothen out the process, reducing the hassle and time taken to get games started. There was a designated area for play and carts for recess equipment. Only the Area Leaders were allowed to retrieve and return equipment. All these processes had hopes to ensure that:  

  • Equipment is well taken care of and accounted for 
  • Equipment is promptly returned after recess – which also means students could return to class punctually 
  • Equipment is readily and equally available for all to use. This also means we could now enforce the rule that students should not bring their own equipment, eliminating distractions from these equipment during lessons as well as building a more inclusive environment. 

Student Engagement 

We began many litmus tests on the ground to understand what students from various levels enjoy and what would motivate them to follow this new structure. We began with a few ideas in mind – 

  • Carnival Like Games – We were convinced that carnival games would bring the most enjoyment as it was something students could not do in class. However, we realized that it would only work with the lower primary students.
  • Skill-based Practice – We felt that students wanted an area for skill-based practice but it was not unanimous and it would not sustain the interest of the masses, not to mention the lack of space.
  • Traditional Games – We found that it was only a novelty and could not go the distance. 

This was when we discovered that our students have ever changing interests and what they really wanted was just a safe place to play a said game (structured) without really needing teacher imposed rules and game formats (unstructured). These litmus tests proved helpful for the long run. 

When we launched the “Let’s Move” programme, we targeted smaller playing areas where injuries were most common (basketball court and parade ground) and with only the upper primary students. The location was chosen as we surveyed the situation and agreed that these locations needed fixing urgently. The UP students were chosen for readiness to adapt and learn new routines quickly, as well as to use the curriculum’s small-sided games as a familiar structure. 

Respective PE teachers held briefing sessions during lessons to ensure students understood expected behaviors, game etiquette as well as the structure. The team gained confidence with the success we were seeing with the upper primary students and were encouraged to roll it out to other levels. Debating if and when they were ready, inhibitions that would eventually prove uncalled for, we decided to just launch and be agile to make critical changes as we went on. Our first structure would see: 

  • Lower Primary – Carnival Games supported by Parent Volunteers The Parent Volunteers were a great help at this juncture. However, we realized that with the parents, the students were not learning to take care of the school equipment as well as one another as they could readily look to the parents for help. This structure would soon make way for our P2 Sports Champions to replace Parent Volunteers at the start of 2020 as a way of grooming reliable and responsible leaders who could support “Let’s Move” for many years to come. 
  • Middle & Upper Primary – a mix of skill-based stations and small-sided games supported by the newly minted Sports Champions, identified by a unique sash.We are currently at version 3 of our structure and the trial and error process will not end anytime soon. Between version 1 to date, we have tried: 
  • Changing the carnival games Sustain the novelty of games through a rotation. The games would also target a different fundamental movement skill throughout the year. 
  • Including carnival games for Middle and Upper Primary To target a different demographic of students who may not want to participate in vigorous activities but would like to still be active. 
  • Include seasonal games in line with the PE curriculum To form an extension of the curriculum and deepen the understanding of game concepts and open up to more playing areas. 

Unforeseen Circumstances

COVID-19 brought many of our plans to halt. For starters, we were thrown into a situation where students could not mingle. Upon returning from the circuit breaker, restrictions were tightened further with the use of masks and maximum group sizes would take precedence over game formats. 

This gave us an opportunity to start afresh, think creatively and at the same time, created many teachable moments to allow for students to be more responsible and proactive to commit to a safe environment for everyone. We have introduced: 

  • Assigned playing areas 
    Classes were rotated to occupy various playing areas. Students adhered to that and were more understanding towards the situation. Sports Champions were vigilant to ensure that only their own classmates were in the designated playing area with them. 
  • Greater care for equipment 
    Students were taught to ensure equipment was not shared between groups. For example, students rotating into play at the badminton courts would enter with a ‘new’ shuttle and at every rotation, they will discard their “used” shuttle into a dedicated bin that would be disinfected at the end of recess.
  • Fewer equipment
    With a need for a leaner, cleaner structure, students now have the freedom to create mini games with simple and fewer equipment. 

As the students quickly adapted to the changes, it has given us much to think about how we could modify the structure of “Let’s Move” as well as the games we could play for the years to come. 

A Passion To Serve – Our Sports Champions

The greatest fruit borne from this programme would have to be the Sports Champion Leadership framework, the backbone for “Let’s Move” and an additional arm to groom leaders from Primary 2.  

It began with a lean group of elite students brimming with leadership potential and an aptitude for sports, chosen by their PE teachers and supported by their form teachers. A coined term guided by the school’s vision, the Sports Champions lead with 20% training and 80% intuition. Armed with the common objective of making recess more enjoyable for their peers, they dutifully adhered to managing various venues and exercising their knowledge of games to support the programme. 

Every tweak to the programme was accompanied by retraining of the Sports Champions progressively, keeping each change closely linked, like an extension of the classroom. These students were outstanding both in and out of the classroom, and their need for excellence spilled into their assigned venues. 

Time would soon tell which students would go the distance. A passion to serve; a necessary characteristic of the Sports Champions. It fuels a relentless energy to prepare the play venues perfectly daily, to maintain and care for equipment, manage crowds and expectations, referee games and even mediate squabbles amongst their peers amicably, all without complaint. It would shape the selection and review process.

The emergence of outstanding leaders has pushed for formal processes to recognize efforts and capabilities. The Sports Champion Leadership framework is aligned closely to our School Leadership Framework which is centred upon the school values, R3ICH. The framework aims to develop leadership competencies of our Sports Champions through 4 levels of leadership dimensions. Students are assessed to be appointed as Area Leader, Level Leader and most prominently, Sports Leaders in the Students’ Council by Primary 5.   

While there is an extrinsic motivation to excel, eventually it morphed into an intrinsic motivation to be a role-model every day, serving the school with pride. Our framework has given the teachers heart to continually find more creative ways to encourage ‘Play’.

Padlet link: https://tinyurl.com/p9cvpspsec2020 or https://padlet.com/goh_suet_mei/jkvb6flg7lfmnk2h 

Contact Us

If you would like to get in touch, do email me at goh_suet_mei@moe.edu.sg