The Importance of Recess and Play for all Students

Recess is essential for students.  However, state curriculum requirements and pressures of state performance can shrink the time our students have to play. Recess has almost disappeared because of the push to perform better on standardized tests.  Some elementary schools do not have recess and some have less than 10 minutes recess. 

I understand the pressures to perform.  I understand the need for more instructional time.  Here is a way I helped give students both instructional time and play time too.

It's real simple.

Students had two recess times.  The first recess is linked to lunch.  As soon as students are finished eating, they get to play outside.  They leave the cafeteria and play until lunch time is over.  The only time this was removed from a student was because of some behavioral issues in the cafeteria.  For the most part, everyone had play time during the day. 

The second time is 30 minutes during the school day.  This time was for play or tutorials.  No tutorials began until the second six weeks of school or during the last six weeks of school.  With that being said, tutorials were 2 days for reading and 2 days for math.  Everyone receives recess on Fridays.  Students may not have tutorials for both subjects so that would give them extra recess days.  The tutorials are based on local benchmarks (checkpoints) or weekly assignments and assessments.  So students receiving tutorials were not necessarily in the classroom for several consecutive weeks.  The majority would only miss two days of play. 

As a principal, I understand the importance that students need to play and socialize.  It is also important to their parents and teachers that they get time to play.

The benefits of play:

1.  Children are less fidgety and more on task when they have recess.  Children with ADHD benefit the most from play.
2.  Research on memory and attention shows that recall was improved when learning is spaced out rather than concentrated.
3.  Physical activity helps build connections in the brain.  It fuels and feeds the brain.
4.  Attitudes improved when students are involved in nonacademic activities.
5.  Social benefits- learning to play together, resolve conflicts, build friendships
6.  Recess helps improve physical fitness in students.
7.  A study showed, "recess leads to improved focus and attention in the classroom.  Breaks in the day help students perform better."
8.  Not only do students perform better academically if they get outside to play, but they have fewer behavior problems too.  Recess motivates students!
9.  Recess reduces stress.  Recess is unstructured.  This allows students to be loud, messy and be in control of their situation.

Eric Jensen, author of many brain based learning, says, " remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes increases fatigue."  Demanding children move less and sit more is counterproductive. 

Let's let students play.  It will improve your students socially, emotionally and academically too.

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