Recess is becoming a thing of the past in some school districts. Sadly, schools are under so much pressure to improve test scores that they feel they need to utilize every spare moment for structured, academic learning. Gone for many schools are the days of half-hour recesses, teachers having the freedom to grant an extra 10 minute recess at the end of the day, and students enjoying unstructured time for play and enjoyment.
Does less recess time really lead to higher test scores? There is growing evidence that makes a case for just the opposite.
At a time when many school districts are cutting back on recess time for their K-5 students, other districts are battling to add more recess time. Many schools with lower standardized testing scores are opting to, or may be mandated to, cut back on their recess time to increase ‘academic learning time.’ The latest research however, supports the case for adding, or at least not taking away, recess time in our schools.
Here are some factors that support the need for recess time in K-5 schools:
- Children need exercise. Rates of childhood obesity have more than doubled in children during the past 30 years and about 18% of children in the U.S. are obese, according to the CDC.
- Increased focus in class. Having a break, playing and ‘clearing the cobwebs’ enables sharper focus on complex concepts AFTER recess.
- Improved academics. A recent study showed that 4 short recess breaks per day actually INCREASED the school’s test scores, students learn more when they can listen better because they are less antsy.
- Social skills. Kids learn to interact positively with others, increasing social development, problem solving & decision-making skills.
- Creative thinking skills. Unstructured play time launches a child’s imagination to invent scenarios and games (i.e. spaceships/robots/cowboys).
Sadly, some schools have had to cut their recess time because there is no money in their budget to hire monitors on the playground (when teachers are not available to supervise). In some communities, parent-volunteers serve as recess monitors, but most communities aren’t fortunate enough to have parents who can serve as volunteers every day.
I’m curious about YOUR thoughts on recess…How does recess seem to affect your class? Does your school/district have a ‘recess time limit’? Another aspect of this debate is the choice of some teachers to take away recess time as a consequence for negative behavior. Do you take away recess as a punishment? Does it work for you? If not, how do you feel about it? I’d be grateful if you’d let me know in the comments below. As always, thanks for your time!