The pressure for schools to improve student test scores is so intense that some are abandoning the childhood treasure of "recess" in lieu of more on-task time. Education World asked educators about recess practices at their schools and the importance of free time for kids to be kids. What might their responses tell you about the importance of recess at your school? Included: Tips for a safe and productive recess period.
"I believe quite strongly that there is great value in play. Play is learning lessons that often can't be learned anyplace else. I believe that taking away time to play will not raise test scores. It seems that with all the rush to pass standardized tests, children have less and less time to play and enjoy it," teacher Marlie Griffin tells Education World. In Griffin's school, Kent Prairie Elementary in Arlington, Washington, a developmental approach to recess was put into place to give students structure and help them to play constructively. The goal was to give the students some skills in play that they seemed to lack. "We had problems with kids who didn't know how to play with one another and kids who got hurt because they are impulsive and sometimes don't act responsibly," Griffin tells Education World. "We worked on this last year. We made recess fun. Recess had a clublike atmosphere, and the kids really seemed to enjoy it. The developmental approach worked fairly well for children who have trouble in less-structured situations and those with inadequate social skills." Kent Prairie provides three recesses per day in kindergarten through second grade. Third- through fifth-grade classes have two. Para-educators supervise the recesses, which are held on two playgrounds. Older students and younger students may mingle during the recess periods.
RECESS IN THE MIDDLE GRADES
"Many students enjoy sitting back on the bleachers or outside, just relaxing for a few minutes," says teaching assistant Brigid Heckman. "This world is so hurried up, go, go, go all the time, that we need to teach our children to stop and take time to smell the roses, even in the structured environment that school offers." Heckman remembers what spurred her to work with a superintendent last year and organize a program of community volunteers to assist with giving students a recess. With one aide watching the entire group of students, all the children had to stay in their seats in the lunchroom until the teachers arrived to retrieve their classes. The cafeteria of Greenwood Central School in Greenwood, New York, was so noisy that students were not able to eat comfortably. "I coordinated the volunteers," explains Heckman. "At the end of the school year last year, we could get volunteers probably three out of the five lunch days for recess. We generally had two volunteers per recess session." The school no longer needs volunteers because the staff has found ways to make more-efficient use of the teacher aides' time. Now every class has a 15-minute recess after lunch, even high school students. "Everyone needs unstructured time during the course of a day -- even in school! For children, recess is important; it helps kids develop social and physical skills, if in a supervised environment," says Heckman. "Recess helps kids blow off steam and take a breather. Educators need to know that high test scores are important, but so is a small amount of unstructured playtime, especially to a 7-year-old!"