Rethinking Recess


Since our five year old twins are preparing for their kindergarten year, my wife asked our soon to be fifth grader about the kindergarten schedule. Griffin is a school safety in the kindergarten rooms and pays attention to details. When the topic of recess came up he said, “When the classes are behaving they have recess after lunch and a recess later in the day.”  From 9 AM to 4 PM a group of five year-olds only has two unstructured play times? I am a bit worried.

We need to rethink recess! We need more! Why?

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce

I know that excellent kindergarten teachers incorporate play into their lessons and give the students time to explore their learning in class. How can teachers take this to the next level? Here are a few ideas teachers should explore:

1. Unscheduled recesses: Why do schools assume ALL of a certain grade are ready for recess at the same time everyday. When a class is ready for recess the teacher can tell. They shouldn’t have to wait. Just go out and enjoy the break. It can be shorter or longer than the prescribed times published in the school schedule.

2: When class is misbehaving or off task, time for a recess: Student misbehave for a recess, usually it is due to boredom or too much time on task. David Garcia said ” kids need unstructured Time, when’s the last time you were comfortable in a 5 hour flight?” Classes need to design breaks and movement so that students don’t feel they are trapped in the plane of education all day. Going outside with unstructured time provides this for them. Having a bad back, I can’t sit much longer than 30 minutes, similar to many of our students.

3. Remember that recess is a NEED for our students not a privilege. Young students need to get outside and move. Making them sit inside as a punishment is only really a punishment on the teacher. Research shows that students will perform better the more they get out an move. Many teachers feel that that is for home, but we need to remember that most students spend too much time in front of a screen at home than playing outside. So fulfill the need in school. Please don’t take away this time as a punishment.

Let’s rethink recess for the good of our students’ learning!