Working Things Out is Child's Play
Moreno Elementary uses games to teach getting along
By Amita Sharma
On the way to the playground Thursday, first-grader Rochelle Louis expressed a lofty mission for herself and classmates.
pigtailed girl in a yellow-flowered dress slipped her arm around school
aide Ronda Longeuay's waist, looked up and said, "We're trying to tell
people to get along with one another."
most first-graders, compatibility hasn't always come easy to Rochelle
or her two best friends, Jazmine Rivera and Cheyenne Collins. Just the
other day, the three girls got into a tiff while playing "Mother and
Daughter." Two of the girls wanted to be the mother.
Jennifer Begley Hasko / The Press-Enterprise
|Pupils at Moreno Elementary School
play Troll Treasure during "Health Play" time. The aim of
game is to teach youngsters how to get along through games on
deeper problem? Three girls with strong personalities. Three leaders.
The school's solution? A program called "Healthy Play," which teaches
children to work out their problems with one another through games.
a society where student grudges can morph into campus shootouts or bomb
threats, "Healthy Play" advocates say the program teaches children to
manage their anger and talk through conflicts.
a parent of two children, I feel it's my responsibility to teach them
how to get along," said Longeuay, who oversees the program at Moreno
Elementary School. "But you know this is not happening in other homes
by what happened in Littleton, and discipline statistics. Healthy Play
at school gives children another avenue, another strategy they can use
in their lives."
Steffens and Spencer Gorin created Healthy Play, which comes from a
book they co-authored called "Learning to Play, Playing to Learn."
Steffens and Gorin are co-founders of Creative Spirit, an organization
that creates training programs for educators, mental health
professionals and child-care workers.
schools in the Moreno Valley Unified School District have teachers
trained in Healthy Play strategies. But Moreno is the first school in
the district with an aide - Longeuay - to work with children using
Healthy Play skills. The program, which started this year, is funded by
an annual state grant.
far, Longeuay says student referrals for behavior problems are down by
25 percent to 30 percent because of Healthy Play. She plans to further
evaluate the program at the end of the year.
choose pupils for Healthy Play based on behavior. Children who interact
poorly with their peers, can't control their anger or can't take
directions from teachers are prime candidates. The school has about 64
pupils in the program.
Each week, Longeuay takes these children,
usually in groups of six to eight, out to play for 30 minutes. Games
focus on fostering creativity and compassion. People and fun come
before winning, she said.
favorite game is, "Are You A Peacebuilder?" Players sit in chairs,
forming a circle. The child without a chair is in the middle of the
circle. That child must greet a person in a chair with a handshake and
ask, "Are you a peace builder?" The person in the chair responds, "Yes,
I'm a peace builder and I like people who..." Players have to use their
imagination to identify an attribute, such as white sneakers, that most
or all the other players have.
with that attribute must leave their chairs and find another place to
sit. The next person left without a chair has to stand in the middle of
the circle and start again.
Healthy Play rules are simple, Longeuay said.
If a student is injured during a game, the closest child must stop and help until the student is ready to play again.
an argument develops between two children, they have to leave the game
and resolve their differences peacefully before they can return.
Students are encouraged to express their complaints to one another and
listen. Then, they must focus on a compromise.
The rules have spilled over into the classroom.
is so much less tattling," said first-grade teacher Lynn Oppermann.
"The kids know even if they tattle, they have to take their problem
away and work it out."
Captains and scorekeeping do not exist in Healthy Play games.
a Healthy Play session, Longeuay sits with her pupils for a debriefing
session called "Compliment Tag." Each child offers a word of praise for
another over what happened during the games.
Jeff Henderson didn't hesitate when his turn came Thursday. Turning to
classmate Richard Mondaca, he said, "I like how Richard helped me up
when I fell down."
with next article -->