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Daily Recess for Sixth-Graders

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: Our elementary school just changed the recess policy. Our fifth and sixth graders only get recess two times a week for a half hour. My husband and I feel that our son needs recess every day and not just two times a week. We have found that he has excess energy when he gets home and constantly complains about not having recess. If it happens to be raining on the scheduled recess day, the children forgo recess. How do you feel about this and how much time do you feel is necessary for recess and what time of the day?

A: Solid research has shown that children need breaks to enhance their learning. After children have let off steam during recess, they fidget less in the classroom and are better able to concentrate on their schoolwork. Plus, they have also had the opportunity to enhance their social skills through interacting with peers. In addition, children need some time for unstructured free play in their very structured lives.

Many schools, like your child's school, have reduced recess time or eliminated recess entirely -- a trend that has accelerated in recent years. The three major reasons why recess is disappearing are: a fear of lawsuits from playground injuries, a shortage of qualified playground supervisors, and a desire to spend more time on academics due to the pressure to improve academic performance. In addition, schools are being asked to add fine arts programs and programs to combat social problems which also compete with time that could be used for recess. Some educators think the answer to the time dilemma is simply to make the school day longer.

Actually, the best program for children in grades one through six is to have a quality daily physical education program plus recess. Physical education classes have the advantage of contributing to the fitness level of children. And if children do not have physical education every day, then having recess becomes even more important as it may be their only opportunity for physical activity during the school day.

Recess at most elementary schools lasts for about 15 minutes and may be held once or twice a day depending on ages of the children. As little as 10 minutes of recess filled with moderate to vigorous activity can be beneficial to children.

Frequently, recess is combined with lunch. In general, research shows that children perform better if recess is scheduled before lunch. If it is immediately after lunch, they tend to race through their meal to get to recess.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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