The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill is is a fun story about a new girl in school who befriends the playground bully, changing the playground back into a fun place. Mean Jean, the playground bully, runs the playground and is mean to the other kids. Then one day, Katie Sue comes to school. Katie Sue just wants to play. Knowing nothing about the current playground situation and Mean Jean, Katie Sue heads out to recess to play. Mean Jean grabs Katie Sue by the collar and tells her she is in charge of the playground. Katie Sue surprises everyone, including Mean Jean, and does not back down. Instead Katie sue asks Mean Jean to play! A friendship is born and the playground becomes a fun place for everyone!
Why I loved this book for my classroom
I loved reading this book to my students! The story was a great companion to our monthly character unit: Friendship. We discussed the importance of including everyone and making new friends. In the book, Mean Jean had never been asked to play before. Once she realized how much fun she could have with friends, her whole attitude changed. She stopped being mean to other kids and started having fun! We used this book to talk about many things: friendship, kindness, courage, and inclusion. My students were able to relate to the book easily. Recess is everyone’s favorite part of the day, of course!
How I used this book in my classroom
Activity 1 – Interactive Read Aloud
The first activity we did for the book Recess Queen was an interactive read aloud. I put questions about each part of the story on sticky notes. Then had students come up to the board to answer the questions on an answer grid as we read the book (CLICK HERE for a detailed description about how I do Interactive Read Alouds). This added some movement to the read aloud and kept my students engaged.
Depending on the level of your students, you could write answers to the sticky note questions on the dry erase board. My students need extra visual support, so I add pictures too. This activity can take some prep time, so if you like the idea and are interested in ready-to-go printable sticky note questions (CLICK HERE) – I got you covered!
Activity 2 – “How to be a Recess Friend” Writing Activity
The next activity we did was a writing prompt about how to be a good recess friend. We talked about the things Mean Jean did on the playground that were not nice and how we would we feel if these things were happening to us. Then we discussed the things that make us feel good when we are having fun at recess and how we can be a good “recess friend” to others.
I gave my students the writing prompt: “How to be a Recess Friend.” I provided three different levels of differentiation for this writing prompt.
Developed Writers – Students wrote a simple paragraph describing how they can be a good recess friend.
Emerging Writers – Students listed 3 examples of activities or ways they could be a good recess friend.
Non-Writers – Students chose from picture-supported errorless choices. (CLICK HERE if you are interested in this version)
After students completed the writing prompt, I had them draw or color a picture of themselves being a good recess friend.
Activity 3 – Character Comparison Activity
Another activity that goes along great with the Recess Queen is a character comparison between Mean Jean and Katie Sue. Mean Jean and Katie Sue have several differences, but at the end of the book, they both enjoy playing with their friends at recess. I created a picture-supported Character Comparison Activity to use with my students – (CLICK HERE to check it out) or if you would like a blank Character Comparison Venn Diagram you can use with any book, I have one in my Free Resource Library. CLICK HERE!
Activity 4 – Role play recess activities
This story is a great introduction to role playing how to be a good recess friend. I created several scenarios for students to act out and have their classmates decide if they were examples of good recess friends or bad recess friends. Students had a great time acting out and discussing the scenarios. If it’s a nice day, you can even take the students out to the playground and practice in the actual setting! Some scenarios we practiced were:
Ask a friend to play basketball.
Push a friend on the swing.
Take turns with a hula hoop.
Give a friend a high five after a game.
Teach a friend to do something new.
If you see a friend sitting alone, ask them to play.
If a friend falls down, help them up.
Cutting in line at the 4-Square Game.
Yelling at a friend when they don’t make a shot at the basketball hoop.
Ignore a friend who doesn’t have anyone to play with.
Laughing at a friend when they fall down.
The Recess Queen was such a fun book to use in my classroom. I hope you found some ideas you can use for your classroom and enjoy the book as much as my class did! Thanks for reading!
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