Impact of Recess on Classroom Behavior

amount of time given by other countries. Japanese schools typically have a 10-20 min recess period between 45-min lessons or 5-min breaks between lessons, with a long play period after lunch. In Taiwan, schools typically have many recess periods during the day; children are also given 5-6 min of transition after recess in which to settle down. British schools have three 15-min recess periods throughout the day and 80-90 minutes at lunch. Many researcher believe that this recess period is key to classroom instruction.

Research was done to determine the effect of a recess break on classroom behavior; specifically working, fidgeting, and listlessness. A southern urban school district with a ‘no recess policy’, granted permission for two grade 4 classes to have recess once a week so that behavior on recess days could be compared to that of behavior on non-recess days. Because recess was not in the normal daily schedule, the students would not anticipate it, and this anticipation could not effect the results. The days for recess were chosen randomly so that a pattern would not develop and be anticipated.

The study looked at 43 children, 18 boys and 25 girls, from a variety of backgrounds; socially, ethnically, and economically. The school was located in middle class-upper middle class neighborhood and serves neighborhood children as well as children bussed in from transient housing. This quantitative study explained very clearly the types of children that were to be studied, the specific controls that would be used, and the results that were being anticipated. Researchers conducting this test were looking for the effectiveness that recess has on the student, if any.

The children were placed into two research groups; A and B. Classroom A’s normal morning schedule is as follows. 8:00-9:30 Instruction in their own classroom 9:30-11:15 Mathematics and science in another classroom (where they were observed) 11:15-12:00 Instruction in their own classroom On the days when the children had recess, they took a break from mathematics and science to go outside from approximately 10:30-10:50. Classroom B’s normal morning schedule is as follows. 8:00-9:30 Instruction in their own classroom :30-11:15

Instruction in another classroom 11:15-12:00 Mathematics and science in their own classroom (where they were At 11:15, when the children returned to their own classroom and had settled down with their books and papers, they began work or went directly outside for recess lasting approximately 11:20-11:40. After four months of research the results showed that children in Class A did not differ much from children in Class B in their pre-recess behavior on recess and non-recess days which indicates that those days the anticipation level remained the same.

The children did not display good behavior in hopes of being granted recess because the recess was unanticipated. At the beginning of the pre-recess period, the children had been working for 2 hours, with the exception of the time it took to walk down a short hallway from their other classroom. At this point they were fidgety 11% of the time and off-task 12% if the time. If they continued to work without a break their fidgetiness increased to 17%, and their off-task behavior increased to 16%. A recess break seemed to have a calming effect, decreasing their off-task and fidgetiness levels below their pre-recess levels.

This part of the study shows that children think and work more effectively when there is a break in the instructional period. As a whole the study showed that more children were renewed by the break than disrupted by it. Individually boys and girls benefited similarly, though it may be for different reasons. Children participating with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) benefited from recess and it did not appear at all counterproductive. The research found that some children are less on task, and in one case, more fidgety, when they have had recess.

The more active children become more off task and the more sedentary children more on task. The study concluded that significant benefits can be had from recess, and that only a minority of children had difficulty settling down after recess. Some children who had trouble were from transient housing and it may be that their lives are already so chaotic that they do better in a structured environment. The results suggest that for most children uninterrupted instructional time may be an inefficient use of instructional time.

The impact that recess has on children is to be expected. Most adults can not go through the day without stopping for a ‘coffee break’, this is the equivalent to an adult recess. It can’t be logical to think that children, who have so much more energy than adults, could sit patiently for six hours without becoming restless. It seems obvious to me that recess is a very beneficial part of the school day. The research suggests that recess is crucial for the learning process to remain at a high level.

The data shows that with a brief transition period but no recess that the level of attention in the classroom goes down considerably. It is indicated that adding a short recess to the daily schedule could increase attention level. I would agree that the attention span of the class and the level at which the students are learning would increase after a short, unanticipated, break. I would also agree that this is significant research for educators to know and that if used properly it could, and would, increase the learning in a classroom.

Most public schools have a period set aside each day for recess that coincides with the lunch schedule. This proves that schools are taking advantage of the recess method. I think that the ‘anticipation factor’ is key to giving recess the greatest impact possible. Schools would have to devise a schedule that would shift the recess periods around so students would be unaware of the days scheduled recess time. This would be dependent on teacher and administrator cooperation. I believe that the research done has ‘real world’ significance to teachers and students alike.

The changes that would have to take place are minimal and the effects that would be achieved are obvious from the start. Teachers everywhere would benefit from using this information in the day to day running of their classrooms by saving countless minutes trying to keep the class on task. We have learned that the most important parts to a lesson are the ‘first’ and ‘last’ facts. When you add recess into the daily schedule you have another ‘start’ and ‘finish’ for kids to remember.


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