Monday, March 1, 2010

The Fourth R:
Making the Case for Recess

By now you’ve probably heard or read about the results of the latest Gallup survey of principals. More than 80 percent of you believe that recess has a positive impact on academics and achievement. This news comes at a time when recess has been taking a big hit -- the victim to time and testing pressures.

Among the other findings of the "The State of Play" survey were the following:
● Two-thirds of principals report that students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.
● An overwhelming majority of principals (96%) conclude that recess has a positive impact on social development.
● An overwhelming majority (97%) of principals believe that recess has a positive impact on general well-being.
● A solid majority (77%) of principals report taking recess away as a punishment.


Many principals who value recess have also taken a second look at a time-honored tradition: lunch followed by recess. By reversing the order of those two elements of the school day -- recess first, then lunch -- principals are finding they can cut down on wasted food and playground tiffs as they make kids more ready to learn after eating.

“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” Janet Sinkewicz, principal at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, New Jersey, told the New York Times [read the article]. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

“We save 15 minutes every day,” added Principal Sarah Hartley, “because kids play, then go to the cafeterias and eat and cool down, and come back to the classroom and start academic work immediately.” Hartley, principal at North Ranch Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona, says 18 of her district’s 31 schools have adopted recess before lunch.


Another of the findings of the recent Gallup survey will come as no surprise to school leaders: the majority of principals say that 89 percent of the discipline-related problems they handle each day occur during recess or lunch.

It is those very discipline issues that have led many schools to take a second look at the value of recess, says Jill Vialet, founder and president of Playworks, a nonprofit organization that helps schools improve recess by putting trained coaches on the playground to help kids get games started and teach them conflict-resolution skills to use when problems arise.

The “organized play” that Playworks provides keeps kids safe during recess and helps them return to class better able to learn, Sara Shenkan-Rich, principal at Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco, told the Christian Science Monitor [read the article].

“It’s about giving kids the tools they need,” Vialet added.


See the following Education World articles about Recess First and Playworks (formerly called Sports4Kids).

Recess Before Lunch Can Mean Happier, Healthier Kids
Recess follows lunch almost as predictably as four follows three, because it always has been that way. Principals who have put recess first, though, have noticed children eat more and behave better after lunch. Included: Ideas for making the change to recess before lunch.

Playworks: Reforming Recess by Teaching Rules of Play
Many students don't come to school with the tools they need to resolve conflicts or the basic understanding of playground games. Through talented on-site playground coordinators and well-trained junior coaches, Playworks provides the structure and guidance required to make recess the powerful and productive experience it should be.

Playground Pass Creates Recess Success
Wouldn't you love a simple, straightforward teaching tool that steers students away from trouble and into recess success? Built on sound behavior principles, the Playground Pass system helps kids make positive choices during free play. Included: Links to the reproducible Playground Pass system and other free resources.

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