School districts under pressure to show academic progress with the strict, federal No Child Left Behind standards, have eliminated recess to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Other concerns for eliminating recess were about safety, lack of supervision, and subpar playground equipment. Without question, taking away recess gave students no way to release the anxieties and stress of everyday school pressures.
The research says
No research supports the idea that test scores went up by eliminating recess and keeping the students in the classroom for extended periods of time. However, there is plenty of evidence that shows how recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. Students who have recess during the day are not only less fidgety and are more focused in class, but they have shown improved memory of their schoolwork.
During recess, students are forced to learn how to negotiate, share, take turns, and resolve conflicts; all of which are crucial for developing our students to grow into healthy and functional members of society. Recess is not a time that students take a break from learning; it is a time where the learning is shifted from academics to learning through play. Students are able to be creative in a non-structured, safe environment.
Alternative Recess ideas
Unfortunately, I am at a school that has not mandated additional time for recess. I am forced to find creative ways to allow my students to learn through play. In my classroom, I try to give my students every opportunity for a “Brain Break.” We may only have 2 minutes here or 15 minutes there. A few examples include:
• I have taken them outside with a box of chalk; some choose to draw their masterpieces, some draw out hop-scotch, and some choose to play with imaginary unicorns.
• Children love to play board games. This is something they learn how to count, take turns, work together and get along with others.
• Other days when we do not have much time, I may play an indoor recess on gonoodle.com.
During these times, they are all encouraged to release the day to day anxieties of school. Several schools nationwide have eliminated recess over the years. Schools that have eliminated recess have been replaced with an academic structured class, such as physical education. Most researchers (and teachers) believe that recess should compliment, not replace physical education. Recess provides creative, social, and emotional benefits of play. Students that are in low-income, urban neighborhoods are especially affected where play areas are scarce and they need a safe place to play.