Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Let's Talk About Recess

The conversation of adults taking away recess from students may be a bit controversial with some people. I think it mainly has to do with adults wanting to have control, a lack of creativity on the adults part and kids in our country just simply having the right to recess.

Do we dock a teachers paycheck if they're late to school one day, miss a staff meeting or say something they shouldn't have to a parent?

Of course we don't.

Do we make teachers sit in a three hour training and then...... when everyone gets a break, we tell a few they have to sit outside on the bench because they weren't paying attention, forgot to charge their laptops, were caught talking to their friends and now must sit down during the break.

Of course we don't.

It's my firm belief that recess is a civil right for all kids.

For some reason it's become socially acceptable (in some schools) to take recess away from kids, and parents don't have a problem with this? What do parents say when their child comes home and they tell them that today they didn't get any recess?

My five year old daughter who started Kindergarten last week would be outside of her mind if she didn't run around during the day and was forced to sit on a bench instead. She needs exercise, she needs to stimulate her brain with movement, she cannot sit down for more than 30-45 minutes - it's her right to have recess just like eating lunch, or using the bathroom at school.

What would a parent say if their child got home and they said they didn't eat lunch, because they misbehaved?

What would a parent say if their child was sent outside during math time and didn't receive any instruction?

What would a parent say if their child said they weren't allowed to use the bathroom at school because of something they did?

I've had students misbehave before in the bathroom at school. We don't take away their bathroom privileges, we don't have that right. We may escort them, have them go with a buddy, do a sign-out sheet of some type, etc etc.....but we wouldn't dare tell them they couldn't use the bathroom at school.

If a student isn't being respectful during lunch we don't and can't tell them they don't have the right to eat lunch. We may have them eat at a different table, in the office until they can gather their emotions, or I would sit right next to them during lunch while they ate.

That's called 'building relationships' and 'working through their struggles!' When you take something away with no creative alternative you're saying you have no creativity, you're done thinking about it and not thinking about the child - we owe kids so much more than that.

Recess is no different, all kids have the right to recess each and every day. They need it, their brain needs it, their energy level needs it and all Kids Deserve It as well.

When I was a Principal very early in my tenure I brought up the conversation of recess with my staff. There were just a couple of teachers who felt the 'taking away recess' practice was positive and acceptable. I brought it up with the entire staff at a meeting and a very veteran teacher raised her hand.

"Adam, it's become such a normal thing in schools I haven't thought twice about it for years. Can't we as a staff be more creative than just having a kid sit on the bench during recess, we owe our kids more than that!"

Yes. We. Do.

And we as a staff came up with many options on how to support our students while still allowing them to move around and release their energy before returning to class.

Please fill out this form with ideas that you've implemented at your school instead of taking away a child's recess. Let's work together to be creative and find alternatives, we can do this together and we must stand up against those who think otherwise.

I also understand that all students at school have the right to be safe during recess as well. If we ever had a student who was endangering others during recess, we as a staff worked with them and their family for alternative options. Sometimes at a different time, in a different setting, with additional adult support. We worked with the student and family, we didn't take away.

There are TONS of articles about recess and the huge benefits from having kids run around and take breaks. Here's a great one from EdWeek.

- When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes.
The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. 

Tim Walker has written extensively about how the many frequent breaks in Finnish schools offer so many positive benefits to kids. We should be giving more recess and more breaks in our schools, not taking them away.

Heinemann publishers has a great book called 'No More Taking Away Recess' that I actually purchased many years ago, check it out if you need some research and new ideas.

I also found an article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest with some horrific statistics. You can read the entire article here, but a few key points are below. 

In a 2016 study of Principals, it was reported that in three-fourths of our schools across the country, kids are punished by loosing recess. I'm starting to think this is a bigger problem than I previously thought.

Here an article on the benefits of recess from Stanford.

Let's talk about recess!


  1. I am so with you. Recess provides our children with the opportunity to move. That movement stimulates their brain. They return much more ready to engage in deeper thinking.

    I also think misbehavior is a symptom of something else going on, sometimes beyond our control but sometimes a child's way of telling us he/she is struggling. Although difficult lets try to look behind the manifestations for the reason.

    No matter what, students MUST go out for recess!

  2. Cool stuff nice to read this thanks for post enjoying to read this find more

  3. Amen, play and time to move is so important for our children's bodies, minds ,and souls! Adults too! Did you receive many responses in your recess Google form? I would be interested to see and share ideas educators are trying OTHER THAN taking away recess time.