Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Yes, please, to more recess

We are lucky that the elementary schools that my children attend still have a full half an hour of lunch and a full half an hour of recess each day. Other kids are not so lucky--recess is becoming a luxury. Though my middle schoolers don't get any recess. Do any middle schoolers get recess any more? So two things of note here:

1) Recess is really important and even half an hour is not enough, especially not for younger children.

2) Secondary students also need some form of recess.

In North Texas, a handful of schools are experimenting with more (not less) recess. Their students go out four times per day, for 15 minutes each, and the results have been very promising so far:
First grade teachers Donna McBride and Cathy Wells say they’ve seen a transformation in their kids. 
They’re less distracted, they make more eye contact, and they tattle less. 
Wells has noticed another difference: She spends less time sharpening pencils. 
“You know why I was sharpening them?” Wells says. “Because they were grinding on them, they were breaking them, they were chewing on them. They’re not doing that now. They’re actually using their pencils for the way that they were designed – to write things!”
I want to say that I've never understood withholding recess, either as a consequence for poor choices or as a way to increase achievement. But it's possible I didn't fully understand that until I had children of my own and then spent two years teaching preschool. As far as I can tell, taking away recess will result in more poor choices being made and in lower achievement and productivity. To me, withholding recess is tantamount to withholding sleep--everyone needs a certain amount of it. And recess is a tremendous opportunity for social learning.

One of my children's teachers (in addition to recess) actually used to take her class outside to walk or run laps when they started to get too wacky. She got it, and she had the autonomy to make that decision. Not all teachers have that, either. I remember dreading the days when my kids and students couldn't go outside or didn't have a suitable place for indoor recess.

Secondary students also need breaks and "recess." This school in Vermont has what they term "MHS unplugged" every day (h/t Joanne Jacobs who got it from edutopia):

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