Teaching Problem Solving at Recess

Believe it when they say play is hard work for kids.

I had recess duty today, and was approached by a pair of third graders.  Let's call them Mikey and Stanley.  They looked to me for help with their disagreement, even though I'm a fourth grade teacher and therefore immediately more intimidating.

Mikey:  Stanley won't stop chasing me.
Me:  Did you tell him that you don't want to play tag?
Mikey:  ...Well...I mean, I AM playing tag.

Later on, once we established that chasing each other is actually part of tag, and that Stanley is allowed to join a game without a formal invitation, I watched Mikey tag Stanley.  And Stanley looked me in the eye.  And then he was the one to approach me.

Stanley:  Mikey smacked me.
Me:  I saw that he tagged you.
Stanley:  He hit me though.

So I explained to Stanley that tagging is also a part of the game of tag.  "However," I added, "If this game is too rough for you, and you don't like being tagged because it hurts, you can let him know you don't want to play anymore.  Would you like to go play something else?"

(By the way, Stanley is about twice as big as Mikey.  Not that it makes it okay for him to actually be hurt or feel threatened, of course). 

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Stanley:  I dunno.
Me:  Well, maybe for now, you should let Mikey know you don't want to play tag anymore.  But if you change your mind, you can tell him that, and if he wants to play too, that's fine.

Hopefully, through the hard work of play, the boys started to make progress on a few life lessons:
1.  The rules and procedures of tag.
2.  Shy kids need to be included.
3.  If it's not fun, don't play.
4.  If someone hurts you, tell them, and walk away.
5.  If you can't work out your own problems, a mediator will help, but also probably take longer than just talking it out on your own would have taken.  (AKA:  Don't tattle).

Since I don't know these boys very well, I'm not sure which of these lessons they needed the MOST today.  But I think I covered most of the bases. 

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