It seems that whenever the question is posed to a primary school student – What is your favorite class at school? – the most common answer that comes back from the creative young minds is, “Recess!”
Of course, there is no room on the grade report for “Recess”, but it is likely that most students would expect to get an ‘A’ since they know a lot about how to play. But what they don’t know is that while they are doing all of their playing, they are actually learning.
Recess is important because it gives young people time away from the sometimes-suffocating atmosphere of their classroom. Many students often feel as if they are tied to their chairs on bright, sunny days. They want to get outside and enjoy the weather, and recess gives them the opportunity to do that. No chalkboards, no papers and no pencils – the time belongs to them (if they behave).
When students are focused on doing something other than paying attention to their teacher or their assignment, they can only benefit from a chance to “step away” for a while. Then once they have had some time to release the energy bottled up inside them, it becomes easier to refocus on learning for the rest of the day.
The second part of that equation benefits the students as well as the teachers. Rather than talking to a bunch of kids who are in a daze and wishing they were somewhere else, the teachers have a refreshed, relaxed group of listeners to work with late in the day.
In addition to how it helps them with their responsibilities in the classroom, recess time is a huge aid to young people in the development of their social skills. And that is part of growing up, just like everything else.
When they are outside on the playground or in the gymnasium, the kids are away from the structured atmosphere that dominates their day – away from the time when they are led around by their teacher. Instead, recess time gives them an opportunity to participate in activities with their classmates, develop friendships, and/or learn to communicate better with others. In some cases, the recess atmosphere may encourage some students to reach out to others when they would otherwise keep to themselves.
Finally, when recess time is through and the time to play has ended, the students go through another important lesson. Learning how to shift one’s mind and body from “play” mode to “work” mode is a lesson that can take many years to learn. Some adults struggle with it every day. That’s why young people going from recess back to the classroom can learn what they need to do to calm down and refocus on the assignment(s) in front of them. And they can work on that assignment every day.
Given these three examples of how primary school students can benefit from recess – release energy, develop social skills and refocus on the classroom – the obvious answer to this debate is ‘Yes’. Next question.