Middle School Recess - Steve Barkley

Middle School Recess

This week I received a question that a middle school administrative team is exploring.

“Do middle school students need recess?”
“Is it harder for them to get back into the academic mode when they return from recess? Would it be more beneficial for students to just have the social time allotted to them while eating lunch? Or, does it make them more wound up when they don’t have that free release time? Some of the charter schools in our area don’t have recess so they can have more instructional time. We are curious about your thoughts on the subject.”

Being part of several PLNs…Professional Learning Networks, I sent the question out and received these responses.

A very experienced middle school teacher and consultant responded:
I remember the most difficult time for me to teach was right after lunch and the last period of the day. Your idea for recess after lunch may give your students the opportunity to release some of their energy and be ready to learn for the remainder of the day. My grandchildren attend a private school that has recess for K – 12. If weather is bad, they have recess in the gym. The social time to interact and share during lunch is a different type of release than the physical activity they can enjoy during a recess. The big question to answer is which will allow you to have more meaningful and productive learning?
a. scheduling more instructional time
b. having a recess so students are ready to engage in learning?
It is so important that we allow this age group to mature to the point of being able to focus like our older high school students

A very experienced middle school teacher and principal responded:
The question of recess for middle schoolers presents some tremendous scheduling challenges because of meeting the individual grade level needs. In my experience, it all depended on the grade configuration of the middle school. If it’s a 5-8 or 6-8 configuration, traditional recess worked well for grade 5 and part of grade 6. As they “matured” to 7th grade the best results and relationship building came from a structured recess where students had many choices to do some right-brained (creative) activities. This can be a real scheduling challenge and takes a lot of commitment and dedication on the part of the teachers. It’s well worth it when the afternoon learning time is maximized.

A Twitter response said, ”They NEED recess! Schedule the recess before the lunch so that students have lunch to settle down and be ready to go back to work.”

When I responded to the question from the principal, I asked, ”Are the students getting sufficient movement during the day?” Thinking of the kinesthetic learners, I wondered if teachers built movement into instruction. Was there an informal classroom (studio environment) where students “wandered freely” or was it pretty much stay in your seat?
I’m thinking that it’s okay not to schedule recess if teachers have strategies and freedom to provide movement and even an outside break when they see students need it (from Dead Poets Society movie where the teacher has kids reviewing information outside with a soccer ball).

The principal replied:
I would honestly have to say no. They get gym twice a week at school and some are part of our few sports team. I would say that most of them go home to sit in front of a TV, computer, video game, or combination of all three. I think the only thing they get less of than physical activity is silent, sustained reading, which is one of the items that we were considering to add to the schedule. Which is more important? We have our ideas, but I’d love to hear more of yours.

Another Twitter response said: “The recess question for middle schools will raise the issue of obesity, but I’m wondering is that the job of the school?”

I did find an article by Cara Bafile on Education World titled: Recess: Necessity or Nicety?
She lists the following reasons for recess:
• Middle school kids are learning to socialize as adolescents. They need to try out various roles, and school is a safe environment.
• They need to control their unstructured time to use it well.
• They are growing at different rates and are at various levels of development physically, mentally, and emotionally. They need to be able to try out their skills and their muscles and use their energy.
• The students get to relate to administrators in informal settings. Says Meyer, “It is amazing what I can find out about a kid [during recess time], or I can connect with kids I wouldn’t ordinarily see. Lots of teaching goes on during this time, and I learn too!”
Well, there are several folks’ thoughts? What are yours?

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One Response to “ Middle School Recess ”

  1. Diane Lauer Says:

    Middle School students need recess. I agree with the principal who expressed that the structure must change for grade configurations. The desires and manners older adolescents use their time is different from elementary students. Our middle schools attach a recess time to lunch and a good portion of the students use the time for physical activity, whether team sport or just games. Yes, it can be a “hassle” to supervise. But that is not the point. That which is difficult but right – is still right.

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