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Recess: 5 Reasons Why We Should Hold onto It


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 time.  Many schools with lower standardized testing scores are opting to, or may be mandated to, cut back to increase ‘academic learning time.’  The latest research however, supports the case for adding, or at least not taking it away.

Here are some factors that support the need for recess time in K-5 schools:

  1. 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.
  1. Increased focus in class. Having a break, playing and ‘clearing the cobwebs’ enables sharper focus on complex concepts AFTER recess.
  1. 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.
  1. Social skills. Kids learn to interact positively with others, increasing social development, problem solving & decision-making skills.
  1. 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 monitors, but most communities aren’t fortunate enough to have parents who can serve as volunteers every day.

I’m curious about YOUR thoughts…How does recess seem to affect your class? Does your school/district have a ‘recess time limit’? Do teachers 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!

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Shelly Rees

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1 Comment

  • Angie July 12, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Our district is limiting our 4th-6th graders to one 15 minute recess per day; they used to have two 15 minute recesses. This will be the first year for the new mandate, so I can’t speak to the results yet. However, I can’t see it being good for the kids. 9, 10, 11 year olds need time to play and relax.

    I know that when we have heat advisory days or rainy days and the kids are not able to get outside, they’re activity level is much higher. I predict the same will happen.

    I do not agree with taking recess away as a punishment. I have coworkers that take recess for behavior and incomplete or missing work. The same kids are always sitting out for recess, so it is obviously not working.

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    I'm Shelly Rees of Appletastic Learning. First and foremost, I'm a mom of 4 boys, wife of 25 years to Aric, and Wyoming girl at heart. I love being creative, making resources for teachers, baking cookies, Diet Coke, teaching, public speaking, and spreading kindness wherever I can. After teaching in the upper elementary grades for over 23 years, I retired early and focused on creating and helping teachers around the world with my teaching ideas and resources. I also serve as a mentor to hundreds of teacherpreneurs and help them get focused on growing their own successful businesses. With 100% honesty, I LOVE my life! Thanks for visiting! I hope you'll stay awhile and come back often. Read More

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