Kids play, socialize and laugh together at recess, but they can also feel lonely or experience bullying. “Wanted: Playground Buddy” introduces one way to make recess friendlier and more inclusive: a Buddy Bench. The activities and suggestions in this toolkit support successful implementation of a Buddy Bench.
- What can be done to make every student feel included on the playground and during recess?
- How can the Buddy Bench help students include others and have fun on the playground and during recess?
Buddy Benches need to be part of a comprehensive plan to improve school climate. And, they must be introduced in thoughtful ways that teach students how to use them appropriately. Review the recommendations in the sidebar “Tips for Bringing a Buddy Bench to Your School.” Then, try this activity with students:
You are playing on your own and you see a boy from your class sitting on the Buddy Bench. He’s crying.
You and your friends are playing and you see that a student who is new to the school is sitting on the Buddy Bench. Your friends don’t want to play with him.
You are new at the school and don’t have many friends yet. So you sit on the Buddy Bench.
You got in a disagreement with your best friend during lunch and now she won’t play with you. You sit on the Buddy Bench.
You’re very shy and don’t like asking other kids to play, so you sit on the Buddy Bench.
Share two sets of guidelines with your students. The first list guides students for when they sit on the bench, and the second list guides them for when they see someone sitting on the bench.*
When you sit on the Buddy Bench
- “Before you sit on the Buddy Bench, think of something you would like to do. Ask someone else to play with you.”
- “The bench isn’t for socializing. Only sit there if you can’t find anyone to play with.”
- “While you’re sitting on the bench, look around for a game you can join.”
- “If you see something you want to do or a friend you want to talk to, get off the bench!”
- “If you’re sitting on the bench, play with the first classmate who invites you.”
- “Keep playing with your new friends!”
When you see someone sitting on the Buddy Bench
- Start by saying hello. If you don’t know the person, introduce yourself.
- Make conversation. What’s up? How are you? I like your shoes.
- Ask them to play with you or suggest an activity you can do together.
- Don’t make it the last time you hang out. Keep playing with your new friend.
- Post these lists somewhere in the classroom, on chart paper or the board.
- Discuss the guidelines with your students. Do they have concerns or questions?
- Offer students an opportunity to express their own ideas about how to make the Buddy Bench work. Do they want to add to or amend the rules?
- Have students practice the behaviors expected and outlined in the guidelines by role-playing how to sit on the bench and how to respond when they see someone else sitting on the bench.
- Debrief with students after the role plays. Ask how they feel. What was hard? What was easy? Could they do this on the real playground?
- Revisit the list of rules. Based on their practice role plays, do they want to add to or amend the lists?
- Give students feedback on any areas they missed.
- Continue to revisit the guidelines and this activity throughout the year.