Recess for children is such a simple concept that some adults don’t know how to deal with it.
Edutopia is talking about a “right way” to do recess in order to “optimize” it. This stems from a report that is supposed to “help” with recess. They want to manipulate how children play and how we analyze how children play.
Here’s a news flash! The right way to do recess is to give it to the children and let them play the way they want. Safety is important, but adult intervention should be kept at a minimum.
Still, the manipulators can’t leave recess alone. They want children calculating their pedometer readings after recess to make sure they took enough steps.
With Edutopia, we see future student behavior measurement—a social-emotional learning rabbit hole involving picky child surveillance and manipulation.
To help educators understand what works on the playground—and what doesn’t—researchers visited nearly 500 elementary schools spanning 22 urban and metropolitan areas in the U.S. The researchers hoped to develop a tool that looked beyond simple questions of physical activity and playground equipment and toward a broader review of “safety, resources, student engagement, adult engagement, prosocial/antisocial behavior, and student empowerment on the playground.”
A tool! More assessment!
They say adults should “model” behavior! Like children can’t figure out on their own how to play.
Adults shouldn’t be on the playground unless they are invited. They need to stand on the sidelines and watch.
Parents in New York are so sick of the manipulation of play they created a park that borders on dangerous, where children have access to hammers and junk. There are good points made here. New York City has so many rules about playgrounds that this park was created outside the city limits.
But intentionally setting up a risky setting for children also seems manipulative. Parents are not allowed into the play area, and they have to sign legal permission. It seems extreme and would never fly in a public school setting.
Why make recess so darn complicated?
With Edutopia, to get recess right, the study recommends that schools ask questions linked to student engagement and empowerment on the playground: Are children engaged in a variety of fun games and activities, both structured and unstructured? Are children choosing the games they’d like to play? Are they getting along and using recess to develop key social skills like turn-taking and conflict resolution? Can they operate with increasing confidence without regular adult intervention?
Can’t they leave it alone?
Good educators understand play. They study its importance to development. They realize that a child who sits alone looking at a butterfly may be recharging in their own way and they’re most likely developing fine.
Children don’t have to do anything during recess. It should be their choice!
When children have time to play, the way they want, when they are given the freedom to master the playground, they become their own people, they grow academically and socially. They learn how to get along. They think for themselves. They refresh.
Manipulating what children do during recess destroys this important learning feature.
While children should be left to play on their own, watching their interactions makes for serious observation by teachers who can learn a lot about how children are growing and learning. They might spot a child with motor coordination difficulties.
And, certainly, teachers should intervene to stop bullying behavior. Children need to learn some behavior is unacceptable.
If adults are worried about recess, they should read the research that’s already out there about it. Recess: Its Role in Education and Development by Anthoy D. Pelligrini is a place to start. Susan Ohanian’s What Happened to Recess and Why are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten is another.
Roger Titcombe says
You are right Nancy. What a tragedy that Piaget is so out of fashion. Unstructured autonomous play is vital for physical, cognitive and emotional development.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree. It is terribly important. In so many schools in America, recess has been denied. Now they are bringing it back, but in a different way.
right. Recess can be complicated should be the last thing we hear
Romina Sparano says
Thank you, Nancy, for advocating for recess! Inn a nutshell, recess is the last frontier of adult-free play! Throughout history kids could go out and play but, no longer…. safety is important and bullying is a problem, but it seems kids won’t know how to deal with safety and bullying if they can never make their own choice. I am with you, let’s giveckids back their childhood!
Nancy Bailey says
You’re right, Romina. I hesitated to mention teacher intervention to bullying, because sometimes children can work it out on their own.
But extreme, consistent bullying should not be tolerated. Well-prepared teachers should be able to tell the difference.
Thank you for mentioning this.
I disagree. I see so many kids at recess playing video games where they run around and shoot each other. And pretend to chop off each other’s heads. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids some games and modeling how to play. Kids don’t learn how to play creative games. They act out video games. It’s violent.
Nancy Bailey says
Where do you see this? I wonder.
Sure you can show students how to jump rope (etc.) if they don’t know how. But recess is about choice. Children should get a break to rest and refresh.
I know no adult who doesn’t get a coffee break at work. In Susan Ohanian’s book she writes how animals in movies even get breaks! Directing children what to do is P.E.
In my day kids acted out TV shows. It was violent then too. We might pause and wonder why kids so often need to act out violence like that? Usually kids act out what they see around them. They are practicing for the world they will inherit.
ITS CALLED BEING A KID!!! Yes sometimes they pretend to do violent things but this isn’t something new, all generations do this stuff. Plus video games have been proven many times to not cause violent thoughts or behaviors.
Laura Henry says
I’m a Girl Scout leader. We spend the first half hour of our meeting having recess because the girls do not get it in school. None of them play video games. Mainly, they play games where they are characters in the books they are reading–Holes and the Warrior Cats books. They play these games for months on end.
Sue Bursztynski says
This is something I’ve never heard of. I’m guessing that these people either aren’t teachers or dropped out of teaching early so they could have power over education. They have spent so much time reading theory instead of working with kids, that they think they know more than those who have. Invariably the decisions are made by people not at the coal face. You can’t leave kids completely alone at recess and lunchtime, that’s what yard duty is for. But interfering with their games is another matter. You’re there to make sure nobody gets hurt, or abuses anyone else, that’s all.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree, Sue. We did recess well for years by doing just what you say. Thank you for commenting.
“When children have time to play, the way they want, when they are given the freedom to master the playground, they become their own people….”
Yes, and therein lies the problem. The powers that be do NOT want children to grow up to be independent adults (except for the elite, deserving few). They want worker bees and drones who are just “smart” enough to be useful without ever thinking to be disobedient.
We live in a society SMH
Roy Turrentine says
These people should have read Jesse Stuart’s Thread That Runs So True. He settled that question during the last generation.