Behaviour: Rough play

4th March 2011 at 00:00
I teach a Year 1 class and the boys always play rough. I'm sick of getting phone calls from worried parents demanding that I deal with it. I have tried bringing the subject up in assembly and circle time, but nothing has worked. What can I do?

What you said

"Playing nicely and being gentle are a bit too vague for such young ones. I would get specific about particular actions. The only thing you are allowed to kick is a ball. There is no judgment about whether any particular kick is too rough or not fair or anything else. Any instance (should lead to) instant exclusion from the playground for the rest of the break. After a couple of weeks of sharp focus and immediate response on this one, you can add another action to the repertoire."


"Focusing in on very specific rules seems like a great idea. I have a small group of similar-aged children who also insist on making their playtimes as physical as possible."


The expert view

Different families have different expectations and levels of tolerance when it comes to their child's behaviour. For some families, "rough play" is an acceptable form of interaction for their child. In school, this form of play can cause concern.

Teachers and the school council should contribute to guidance on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in the playground with written definitions and examples.

To achieve good playground behaviour:

- Make sure pupils understand the rules;

- Ensure playground monitors are consistent and fair when enforcing behavioural expectations;

- Praise pupils when they behave appropriately;

- Ensure teachers reinforce good playground behaviour in the classroom, normally through the use of praise.

Play provides opportunities for children to learn through imitation, imagination and fun. It can also help them to understand the consequences of their actions. Engaging children in acceptable levels of play can be achieved by:

- Teaching new and exciting games to play on the playground and, if wet, inside the classroom. A teacher or teaching assistant can co-ordinate these games every playtime, encouraging all the children to participate. Games that allow children to burn off excess energy will benefit them more.

- Implementing emotional literacy sessions where acceptable and unacceptable behaviour can be discussed with children in more detail. These sessions can include discussions, role-play, written activities, stories and games.

Nicola S Morgan is a behaviour management consultant and co-founder of For more advice, go to



- Involve pupils in drawing up a list of inappropriate behaviours.

- Apply rules fairly and consistently.

- Use praise to reinforce good behaviour.


- Assume that an instruction of "play nice" will suffice. Be specific with what you do not want to see.

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