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Teaching Strategies to Calm, Refocus Students After Recess

Janelle Cox

Teaching strategies for after recess can be quite a challenge for teachers, that’s why most teachers try and schedule recess at the very end of the school day, to avoid this challenge. But, sometimes recess does not always fall at the time that you want it to. This can be because of an ongoing lesson, field trip, assembly, fire drill, etc. When this happens, you have to deal with chaos and try out a few teaching strategies to get your students calm and refocused. Here are a few time-tested teaching strategies to make your class after recess a little bit easier.

Teaching Strategies: Read a Book

Books are a great way to transition students back into the swing of things. All you have to do is dim the lights and have the students read a book, or you can read a book to the students. Remember they are just coming in from recess where they were probably running around the playground so they need some time to calm down and relax. Dimming the lights and giving them something easy (like listening or reading a book) doesn’t require a lot of thinking and is a great way to calm them down.

Mindful Meditation

Another great way to calm and refocus students after recess is to have them do some mindful meditation. Most of the students’ heart rates will still be coming down from all of the playing that they did at recess, and a little mindful meditation can help them being that rate down even lower. To start, dim the lights and have the students sit comfortably. If you have access to yoga mats, then they can rest on that. Once the students are comfortable, have them close their eyes and listen to their breath. Have the students count silently, one as they inhale and two as they exhale all the way up to ten. You can repeat as many times as you like, or you can play soft music and have the students listen to that.

Guided Imagery

Much like mindfulness, guided imagery creates an environment where students feel calm and relaxed. Once students come in from recess, have them sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Then dim the lights and ask them to close their eyes. Have students start to listen to their breathing to help slow it down. Once you notice the students start calming down, you can guide them on a magical (imaginary) adventure. You can either make up your own story or you can read a relaxation story online. For an extension activity, you can have students draw or write about what they came up in their minds after they hear the story.

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Have a “Technology” Break

One of the best times to utilize technology is when students are tired. A lot of the apps and games that students like to play on an iPad or computer are pretty mindless, so this is the time to let them indulge in their impulse to use technology so they will get it out of their system and be able to refocus on the next lesson coming up.

Try a Relaxing Brain Break  

Many teachers use brain breaks throughout the day to help break up the monotony and help refocus their students. You can try a relaxing brain break after recess, like having the students do a few stretches, yoga poses, or even play soft musical instruments. You can have students take turns being the instructor and do a few stretches like touching their toes, or teach students some calming yoga poses like the corpse, tree pose, or child’s pose. If you choose to use instruments, then wind chimes, bells, triangles, or rain sticks are the perfect way to grab your students’ attention while calming their minds and refocusing them on what you need them to be doing next.

When returning to your classroom after recess, your students will either be utterly exhausted or still fired up and ready to go. Whatever the case may be, it is now up to you to try out a few of the strategies mentioned above to see what will work for you and your students. What may work one day may not work the next, so keep going down the list until you have found one that works for you on the that day.

How do you calm and refocus your students after recess in your classroom? Do you have any tips or teaching strategies that work for you? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.