Take Away Recess! Are You Mad?

English: the picture consist of articles on bu...
The picture consist of articles on bullying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Wayne Sheldrick

One of the most important classroom management strategies that you can employ has very little to do with the classroom.

That's right, this strategy occurs outside of the classroom. It is also a strategy that you may not even be involved in.

So what is this classroom management strategy that you aren't involved in and doesn't take place in the classroom? Its' common name is RECESS!

That's right; recess is one of the most effective elements in your arsenal. Unfortunately it is too frequently misused, abused and even eliminated. Some school districts have shortened and even eliminated recess in the name of improving academics or eliminating bullying.

These misguided administrators are overlooking the obvious. Recess does not cause bullying. It only provides an opportunity for it to occur in an environment where it is not being dealt with properly. Secondly in research studies recess has been shown to have a positive impact on academic performance, not the reverse.

Let's deal with the bullying argument first. It's true; if there is no recess, then students can't be bullied at recess. But it doesn't stop bullying before school, or after, or in the lunch room, or washroom, or ... if bullying is going to happen at school it will happen!

Rules established to facilitate classroom management don't apply outside the classroom or when the regular teacher is absent. If you are going to rely exclusively on rules and consequences to maintain law and order in your classroom chaos is the logical next step once the enforcer (AKA YOU) leaves the room.

Bullying is a school and community problem that needs to be dealt with in the classroom and in the home. Monthly anti-bullying themes and award assemblies may heighten awareness but does little to stop bullies. Rewards and punishments in the classroom don't address the underlying causes of bullying, they only mask them and defer the bullying to another occasion.

How often have you been told to use this argument with your students? If you fool around in class and don't finish your work you will need to stay in at recess to complete it! We are told this is a good example of the use of logical consequences.

In point of fact it is an excellent textbook example of how to use logical consequences. But if logical consequences are so effective and important for us to consider why does no one discuss the logical consequence of using a logical consequence like this?

Let's examine the consequences for the student first. In his mind you have punished him by taking away his recess. Does that endear you to the student? Not likely. When recess is over and his friends return for the next class he is not going to be in a positive frame of mind nor will he be anxious to do anything for you. Will his mind be clear and re-oxygenated ready for the next class? And when his friends tell him about all the fun they had a recess he will be even more upset.

As a teacher your best classroom management strategy is to insure that recess is an integral part of your day. If you are in a school that has eliminated recess then take the kids out yourself for some fresh air and exercise. You will benefit from it too. If your recesses have been shortened try meeting your class at the end of recess and extend it for five or ten minutes.

Call it a teaching moment. Show them how to play together, how to sort out disputes. I guarantee you that you will be the most popular teacher in the school as far as the students are concerned. As academic performance improves you will be on the parents "best teacher" list as well. Eventually others in your school will see the advantages, hopefully even the principal will agree.

Add this classroom management strategy to your arsenal and I guarantee you a great year.

Wayne Sheldrick PhD


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