Taking questions: Don’t forget about recess

 Being outdoors is good for you

Q: I was wondering if you were going to approach the subject of school recesses? I’ve taught for [Redacted] City schools and every elementary school I taught at, I was a floating teacher, had recess scheduled out of the day. The main school I taught at wouldn’t allow students outside and had they had less then 45 minutes of PE a week in a tiny classroom in one part of the building. My kids were often wound pretty tight by the end of the day even with the physical activity I tried to incorporate into my lessons.

A: Kids need to have a chance to run around outside during the school day just to let off steam, but there are other reasons why recess is important. I believe that movement is vital to learning. It gets the blood flowing and kids get a chance to be outside. Learning at school is too often based on classroom activities that we forget that kids learn from being outdoors too.

This year I’m working in a different school district. I’m enjoying the compare/contrast. My current school has recess and it’s before lunch. The kids get PE twice a week. The schools are much smaller (half the size of a typical neighborhood school in Chicago). It’s too early for me to draw any conclusions about how much exercise they get and their academic performance, but my first and second graders (special education kids) are excellent decoders — something I virtually never saw in Chicago.

For four years I worked in a school in Chicago that had no recess and once a week gym. Last year I continued my work with Chicago kids, but a different CPS school. They had recess and frequent gym. Working in the “recess-allowed” school it was obvious the kids needed to run around. At the school where there was no recess, it just became part of the culture and was generally accepted that no recess was just fine.

Overall I believe that recess is too valuable to skip. I’m rambling here because I’m tired but if you would like to read some of my other thoughts about recess, here’s one of my older posts: Why No Recess is a Huge Mistake.


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9 thoughts on “Taking questions: Don’t forget about recess

  1. I certainly feel that I lose concentration if I have been static for too long – and I’m an adult! When I sit at my computer gazing at the screen for hours or reading a book and making notes, just getting up and walking to the bathroom and back can help me restart my concentration. Physical exercise really is essential, and I’m always astounded that there are schools which don’t value it. That being said, I always HATED compulsory PE!

  2. In college I had a class that was over 50 minutes and the teacher was required to give us a few minutes break in the middle of class (apparently all classes over 50 minutes were required to do that because studies show that we need breaks.) Also when we go to conferences, meetings, etc we get breaks as adults. What astounds me is that we expect children to act better in school with a lot fewer breaks than we as adults want/expect. Plus we expect them to act better than we do (when was the last time you were at a conference and didn’t doodle, fidget, not pay attention, etc.)

    Children NEED to move! Recess should not be sacrificed… (I don’t have school aged children so I’m using a nephew example..) My sister’s boys went to a school were they had a VERY short lunch break – the only recess was if you didn’t spend the whole time eating and got to play for a few minutes AND they had once a week gym. At home she had to remind her children they were not timed to eat lunch/dinner/breakfast as they would typically eat it as fast as possible. This does not promote healthy eating habits in children! School Administration decides to give a shorter lunch break for children than adults typically get at work. It just doesn’t make logical sense!

  3. At my school we have no gym classes and have 30 min lunch/recess but no school lunch is offered and you have to spend 10 minutes eating which I as student think that that’s enough time to eat though would like a longer recess. Some of our classes are 2hrs and we get a 15min break in the middle. You can play in the gym for 25 min before school starts. I can’t imagine not having recess.

  4. We have daily recess. The kids will go outside unless it is raining or frigid out. Every class is different as far as incorporating other activity into the day. My daughter’s teacher has a set of dice they roll every morning–10 jumping jacks, 8 toe touches, etc and they put on a song and dance to it, teacher too, just to get the blood pumping and giggles coming. Older son has extra recess once a week with just the other 5th grade classes. 5th grade also goes on a 3 day camping trip, where they go fishing and hiking and mountain climbing! All 4th graders in the district compete in an Olympics type event at the high school.

    Kids have gym once a week. Our school is good about combining scholastic achievements with movement. If you read so many books over the summer, you get a “free day” at school where high school athletes/cheerleaders play with the kids, help them with their free throws, toss a football. If you meet your AR goal you get to play in a dodgeball or kickball tournament. At the end of the year we have a field day with bounce houses, tug of war, water balloon battles, kickball, even karate lessons one year. I think it helps to build bonds and memories with the kids, encourages them to do well and behave and makes them well-rounded. It creates such a positive atmosphere in the school. It makes me sad to think that not all kids have such opportunities.

    1. Coincidence or not, it was just announced that our district has the highest PSSA test scores in the county, in the top 20 in the state, while having the second lowest cost per pupil average in the county. How much does recess have to do with that? I don’t know, but I would love to see some data on the other schools.

  5. Kids totally need to be allowed to wiggle and be active. I remember my English teacher when I was a SENIOR in high school saying that during my AP Exam I moved around more than ANYONE she ever saw. It was true, when I focus on something academic – even reading – I need to shift up my position. A friend later told me that was because I was a kinetic learner. It made me then read my text books for college on the treadmill. I did SO much better in retaining what I learned it was astounding to me.

    My English teacher teased me that one time because she was totally nervous for how we all did on the AP Exam, I got a four. 😉 I know none of my teachers stopped me from my antics during tests – that I remember anyhow.

  6. I remember that my son’s fourth grade teacher had an ingenious solution to no morning recess. As a former Coast Guard officer, she was used to lots of physical exercise so she had the kids run cadence drills in the gym, except that they we using multiplication tables to keep rhythm. All those kinetic learners were delighted to learn this way! A ten minute run really helped energize their minds and bodies before the remainder of the morning.

  7. As a former teacher, I think NOT having recess at all would be totally counter-productive! How much time is lost in the day disciplining kids who need to move, but aren’t allowed? The kids and I both loved times to move and learn drills together.

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