Recess was always one of the best times of my school days while growing up. Sure, I may not have been the best athlete playing football. I may not have been the fastest while playing tag. I may not have always been the most social, but recess gave me the time to be social!
Recess is one of the greatest tools that schools and educators have to stimulate the mind, promote teamwork, and increase student engagement. Sadly, many schools have started the trend towards removing recess from the school day.
Recess has been found to help children develop cognitive skills because of the interactive and experiential learning it provides. Students are engaged in social activity that they get to control. Yes, there are restrictions on where they can go and what activities they can participate in (student safety is always first), but the activities they do participate in are student driven. Students lead the way.
Another benefit of recess is that it provides physical activity for students. Students need to be active, not just for their health but also for brain stimulation. Students will respond better to learning once their minds have been actively engaged…and that means movement. We cannot allow students to simply sit in rows and expect them to recite the information back if they are not physically engaged in the learning. Recess provides them with physical activity that makes their minds start to become more active.
During recess, students have the opportunity to socialize with other students that they may or may not typically socialize with during the school day. Students are free to choose who they get to talk with. Now, this does leave the issue of students feeling excluded and these situations need to be monitored. Schools cannot allow students to feel excluded or left out of activities, but schools also need to be sure that students have their personal time. Schools cannot simply assume that a student sitting alone is being excluded, but rather they may want to have their own time to reflect or simply recharge. We need to let the students do what they know is best for them.
Recess safety is also critical. Since students are free to engage in activities of their own choosing, we need to ensure that guidelines are well set and students are aware of their actions on the playground.Even though recess time is time for students to socialize and engage in creative activities, it is not a time for unsupervised behavior. The recess monitors need to be open to student growth and engagement in behaviors that may seem more risky than usual. Now, we cannot allow students to participate in actions that are carefree or endangering to themselves or others, but we can allow them to act in ways that show curiosity and a growth mindset.
With regards to indoor recess, the same rules apply. We need to provide activities that engage students in movement or thinking during recess. We need students to be active. Students can play games or follow guided dance routines through the projector. Indoor recess should not be sit and read sessions, unless the student feels that is best for them.
Recess is essential and necessary for students to grow academically. We need to keep it and embrace it. Academic achievement is greater when recess is around. Taking 20-25 minutes away from students to add in a few more minutes of lessons, takes 20-25 minutes away from a student exploring and being creative on their own. Let recess be recess…and let the kids play!