Thursday, September 4, 2014

Time for MORE Recess

Sometimes when I am teaching in the afternoon, I feel exhausted.  I look at my first graders and see a glazed look in their eyes as they pretend to be interested. Occasionally a kid will just simply tip over and lay down.  I think to myself, if I feel this tired, they must feel ten times worse.  We get up and do some brain breaks, have dance parties and I throw in a random read aloud just for fun, but by 2:00 pm the kids are done learning.

Our recess comes at the very end of the day.  It is just how it works out in our school's schedule.  I am beginning to think though my students need and deserve more recess, especially earlier in the day.  I did some research about recess in elementary school and found that recess has tons of positive effects.

Some of the positive effects cited:

  • increased attention
  • increased cognitive functioning
  • increased memory recall
  • growth of social skills, such as leadership and negotiation
  • better health and fitness
One of the big mistakes we make in education is assuming more is always better.  If we spend more time doing something, then we should get better results right?  I would argue that the opposite is true- once you pass the point of "enough" then you actually get negative results.  The brain can become saturated, overwhelmed and and begin to shut down.  We know this from our own experience and research confirms it. 

So what do I do about it?  I need to find at least 10 minutes in my morning schedule for a recess and plan a break mid-afternoon.  My students need to have a chance to recharge their brains and blow off some steam.  These breaks will pay for itself with increased attention later in the day when I am normally teaching to kiddos in total shut down.  

Now I charge you to take a thoughtful look at your students' or child's schedule and advocate for them if needed.  They need and deserve it.

In case you want to read more: