Is Recess Needed?

Posted: April 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

Over the past few weeks I’ve read some articles about recess at school. The local news reported on recess after a recent study and it’s always great to read about the Finland model of school recess.

In our great nation, P.E. and the arts has been taken away to help improve test scores and budgets. Now as scores are not improving or as budgets are lowering even more, schools are opting to cut recess. Is this the answer though?

What is the definition of recess? According to dictionary.comtemporary withdrawal or cessation from the usual work or activity.

How many students already take this break? Or rather, try to take the break. “May I go to the restroom?” is often heard. Yes, sometimes students need to go, but sometimes they just need a small break.

In fact, look at adults. How many just sit at a desk all day long and work? There may be a few, but there are many adults who walk over to a coworker and chat for a bit, there are many who change websites and play a small game, there are some who lay a mat on the floor and take a small nap! We all need breaks at times.

So why is it in schools we force students to sit in a desk for 6-7 hours and work, work, work?

This past week I sent out a survey about recess. The first question was to find who was taking the survey.

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After answering that question, I had the survey go based off of their answer. Let’s look at some administrator responses first.

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This shows that the older you get, the less scheduled free time they receive. In fact, often times teachers are told to teach bell to bell. Some may say that students get a break between classes. Often times that break is 4-5 minutes long and they are busy getting from class to class, getting a drink and using the restroom. That’s not a break, that’s a race!

After looking at that information, check out this response from a student in the 11th grade who feels older students should not have recess.

Recess should occur through elementary school, so about fifth grade. These kids need a chance to get rid of excess energy. By high school, students don’t have as much energy due to stress.

Why do they have stress? Is it induced by teachers and schools? The following are some statements from administrators about students and recess.

I believe recess is a necessary and valuable part of the elementary school day. Students learn social skills through playing together. It is an opportunity for students to expend energy built up while sitting in class or re-energize to return to classroom learning.
Kids need recess for multiple reasons. It benefits the educational process and success.
it is essential for children to have opportunities to play – to support emotional/social development, problem solving, etc. Some children now have very few opportunities for free play after school, weekends, etc.
It is much needed, for kids and teachers
It is necessary, just read research about the brain. Eric Jensen is a perfect place to stop for reliable information.
So now you’re thinking that if administration is thinking that recess is important, what do teachers think? You know, the ones who actually have to monitor (most of the time) the free time.
As a 6th grade teacher, I believe that recess is beneficial, as it gives the students an opportunity to “burn off some energy.” It also allows us as teachers to see the students in a different light and get to know them in a different way, outside of the classroom setting.
Students need time to release their energy and get moving. Also fosters friendships and provides opportunities for teamwork (i.e. recess leagues for football, basketball or baseball depending on the time of year).
Children need time to play. The lack of recess is robbing them not only of the ability to learn more, but also of social skills necessary to survive in the adult world. Primary students should have three unstructured breaks a day, minimum. Intermediate students could do with two longer breaks.
I believe that if we expect students to be attentive and engaged from bell to bell in all their secondary classes, they need some down time to socialize and relax mentally and emotionally. Fun is healthy and can make us more productive later.
Recess is an important time for students to develop their gross motor, social, and emotional skills. Students learn through play and recess is an excellent opportunity for children to learn about themselves, their peers, and the environment. Students are not merely “taking a break”. They are always learning, always playing, and always doing.
It is needed at every grade. Adults have the opportunity to walk away from their desk, why do we limit that for our children?
It is a crying shame that recess time has been cut, and even omitted, in many public schools. Children need to balance activity with sitting-down, passive study/learning. The research will support this premise, as will experienced physical therapists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists, child psychologists, and teachers. I taught middle school for eight years, and I saw firsthand how well-timed recess and PE classes helped kids to later settle down and focus. Bring recess back!
I find this it sometimes interrupts the flow of learning (as observed with classroom teacher), but I do believe regular breaks are needed! Sometimes I see Intermediate students just stay in and finish work, or just chill with a few friends in class.
I believe everyone needs time during their day to relax and communicate with peers. The younger the student, the more that communication needs to be via play. At the age I teach (and with the overwhelming number of struggling learners we have) I feel the students should be allowed more time to move — and I don’t mean passing between classes.
Kids need more time to play. Doctors are noticing that kids don’t have balance or coordination anymore. Those things come from playing outside. Kids don’t play group games anymore, because no one teaches them. They need time to just be kids.
It is much needed! Our kids need to be up moving around, but it also allows students an opportunity to work on their problem solving skills with peers. I’d say that fits under a 21st Century skill!
8th and 9th graders are given the remaining time of their lunch to play if they want to. The idea is in the right place to let them play, and I believe play is very important for students in elementary school, yet as our students come back in to class it is very evident for the first 15min+ who just had lunch/ yard time. This is something our building can look at; is the play time adequate for students needs or do we need to have a better plan in place for transitioning these students back into the classroom to reduce the disruption to instructional time.
However, not every teacher has the belief that recess is necessary.
While it is nice for the students to have time during the day to unwind and get out some energy, it can be challenging to get them focused again the first class following recess. Also, given that it is middle school, recess provides an opportunity for drama that often spills into the first class following recess including having the principal call students out of class to investigate what took place during recess. Overall, I do not find the benefits to outweigh the detriments.
So what about students? Do they feel that they should have recess? First, these are the results of what ages filled out the survey.
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What do they do during recess?
Talking with my friends, and getting free time.
Not being stuck in a building learning things.
Having a break from classes and freely talking with my friends.
Playing basketball, hanging with friends, and being outside.
Nothing, it’s boring.
Getting my work done or hang out with friends.
Taking a break from school work and being able to play basketball and have fun. I like hanging out with my friends and talk about things that aren’t educational.
To talk to my friends and listening to music while I dance with my friends.
A break from school.
This makes sense. In class they hear, “stop talking”, so recess gives them time to sit and talk with their friends. It allows them to be kids. Everyone is social, so why not allow the time?
Now, what do parents think?
Everyone needs breaks and downtime at all ages.
It should be much longer and more frequent.
Kids need time during the school day to move and time to give their brain a break no matter what age.
Recess should be required and NEVER taken unless a child was unsafe during recess.
There should be a lot of it, and kids should go outside and move even in cold or wet weather.
Everyone needs some down time mentally.
I believe children need time during their day to relax, run around, and play. Too much sitting at a desk and not enough moving makes it harder for them to pay attention in class.
This last one shows some great insight. I know that not all parents talk with their children about play time, but reading helps show why free time is important.
Kids (and teachers) need a mental break and it’s a good way to practice social skills. Even if there aren’t the nicest kids on the playground, it helps some kids learn to fend for themselves in our helicopter parenting age. When my son has trouble, he talks to me about it, we problem solve, then I contact the school to ask people to keep an eye out when needed. He needs to learn to stand up for himself and to learn who the kids are he doesn’t need to waste his time and at the same time he needs to be able to figure it out on his own too. We support him at home and have open communication to help when needed but to really help the whole child develop and grow schools should allow for the intellectual and emotional piece but recess supports the social and moral parts of being human. Not to mention PE is only offered once a week and Illinois says that’s all they need if they get recess (even though if it is too cold or raining they can’t play outside and therefore don’t get the physical activity, but that’s another topic for another day.)
So what are your thoughts? Do you feel it’s important?
Disclaimer: My survey is in no way official, but it does give some insight thoughts about recess.

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