Readers — Here is an actual letter from a school superintendent, sent in by a reader after she and her husband had asked why their kindergartener was getting Â only getting one 20-minute recess per day. Writes the mom:
I was told it was because of curriculum at first. Â That seemed odd because we went from 1/2 to full day in this district recently. Â Anyway, the 2nd time I asked it was because not every one brings a jacket. Â My response was that I would go to Salvation Army and pick up extra jackets. And then we got this letter:
The instructional day is designed to be developmentally appropriate at each grade level. “Recess” provides a break from instructional activities, but it’s lack of structure is not always most developmentally appropriate for our youngest students. There are a variety of ways to provide variety and student directed activity during the classroom day, including center based learning time, “choice” time, and structured social time with the teacher.Â In addition, the need for movement and gross motor development is met through twice weekly scheduled P.E. classes, as well as weekly music and Spanish classes that include rhythm and movement activities.Â
Lenore here again: Okay, now here’s an excerpt from an essay by Last Child in the Woods’ author Richard LouvÂ that ran on the Children and Nature NetworkÂ blog. Louv says kids who spend time beyond the screen end up developing keener senses, which is something even employers appreciate. For instance:
The U.S. military has studied how some soldiers seem to be able to use their latent senses to detect roadside bombs and other hazards. The 18-month study of 800 military personnel found that the best bomb spotters were rural peopleâ€”those whoâ€™d grown up in the woods hunting turkey or deerâ€”as well as those from tough urban neighborhoods, where itâ€™s equally important to be alert.
â€œThey just seemed to pick up things much better,â€ reported Army Sergeant Major Todd Burnett, who worked on the study for the Pentagonâ€™s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. â€œThey know how to look at the entire environment.â€ …
Today, students (and the rest of us) who work and learn in a dominating digital environment expend enormous energyÂ toÂ block outÂ many of these senses, in order to focus narrowly on the screen…. Thatâ€™s the very definition of being less alive. Who among us wants to be less alive?Â What parent wants their child to be?…
A central goal of modern education should be to…nurture the hybrid mind â€” to stimulate both ways of knowing in the world: digital and direct experience.
Lenore here again: Agreed! So, recess? It’s necessary. Unstructured time? Ditto. Taking these away to make kids “more prepared” actually makes them less so. So if your school is cutting back on recess, please refer them to this Louv piece as a way to start re-thinking what kids really need to succeed. – L.Â
That man’s letter disgusts me so much I can’t even formulate an appropriate response.
Lenore, just before visiting your blog today, I was about to send you the following information, which seems so timely.
The first one:
“Exercise boosts creativity”
made me wonder if educators realized subconsciously that recess was boosting their students creativity, and they didn’t enjoy what this meant in the resulting classroom behavior. In other words, do teachers only want kids to sit in their seats, watch the teacher, and be quiet, like good little zombies? Of course they do!
Then I saw the following article:
“Inside the Box – People donâ€™t actually like creativity”
Notice what it says about schools and creativity.
Personally, I think that school is not developmentally appropriate for their younger students.
THIS is why ADD and ADHD drugs are becoming more common at younger ages.
Oh my word, I am so thankful we moved to Switzerland. My Kindergartener has 40 minutes of sitting time per day. The rest is play based, and mostly pretty unstructured.
One never hears about the horribly uneducated Swiss, so I figure their system works.
“That manâ€™s letter disgusts me so much I canâ€™t even formulate an appropriate response.”
I can. Go to school board meeting and demand superintendent be fired. Now.
Gather as many parents as you can, to challenge this, and have this administrator removed.
Oh, that is so so sad. They are probably trying to what they think is best, but it is so misguided. I re-think my decision to send my daughter to public kindergarten next fall all the time. This makes me want to homeschool…. I hope this attitude isn’t catching!
Meanwhile I’m using a curriculum, originally developed for public schools, that is based on the assumption that nonstructured activity is the point at younger ages–that until they have plenty of practice using their senses and manipulating concrete objects, children are not ready for abstract thinking or programmed lessons. (And even then, children are supposed to be able to make their own connections among data that they find in context, because that’s how a well-nourished, well-exercised mind works. Charlotte Mason spoke out in explicit opposition to the then-new fashion for precisely metered step-by-step lessons. It’s too bad she lost.)
The bolded portion seems odd, but I’m not sure about complaining about 20 minutes of recess PLUS these other options he lists.
How much recess time do parents expect?
This is where I get confused. These parents are asking the school for more or longer recess. People that commented on the “bully at recess” post said that they didn’t think recess was valuable to their child.
This is when I think home schooling DOES make sense. Because I keep reading about parents who want the type of school day that they want. They tend to forget all the other factors the school is managing and families with kids who might want something different.
“but it’s lack of structure” – Was that inappropriate apostrophe in the original, as in: written by the Superintendent of Schools who should know better?
Forgot to mention: Mason also argued that (using updated language here–she was a Victorian) since the natural environment of human beings throughout most of history has been outdoors getting stuff done with brief forays indoors, young children should be outdoors too, for hours at a time if feasible. Exercise, sensory training, memory work, fine- and gross-motor training: all will come to a child who is outdoors with care and minimal guidance from an adult.
My guess: Most teachers hate having to act as playground monitors. I’d bet the teachers’ union has made a push so that teachers cannot be required to act as playground monitors anymore so aides, secretaries, and other personnel are being given that job, or teachers can only be required to spend 20 minutes in that capacity a day.
The problem, E, IS his horrible explanation. Twenty minutes is probably not enough for a full day with 5-6 year olds, but leaving that aside, no matter what, any educator who says that recess is “not developmentally appropriate” for 5-6 year olds as a class needs to find a new line of work, period. Saying “different people want different things” is all well and good, but saying “it’s bad for 5-6 year olds to have recess” is just unacceptable from someone in charge of education for a whole district. That’s not a statement that not everyone likes recess, that’s a statement that 5 year olds are actually HURT by having ANY time away from structured study in the course of a six hour day. That’s absolute, unadulterated, garbage, and it’s not just one parent’s opinion, it’s the beliefs of the guy in charge and getting PAID to know this stuff.
@pentamom….that’s why I said the bolded part was odd.
I just keep reading about how the schools are awful, the schools are awful, the schools aren’t doing what I WANT the schools to do.
I bet if you sat down with the Superintendent, you’d probably find that he actually DOES want kids to succeed.
Clearly the parents feel very strongly about recess, they’ve gotten all the way to the Superintendent.
“the need for movement and gross motor development is met through twice weekly scheduled P.E. classes”
Twice WEEKLY. Reeeeeeeeally. And surely that will calm those 5yos down enough to have them sit still the rest of the week???!! Poor children.
@E: If there is a problem with bullying during recess, then the problem is bullying, not recess. Cutting out recess because of bullying is throwing out the baby with the bath water.
And I’ll add, the title of this blog entry seems to purposely sensationalize itself by removing the word “always”.
Quote:”â€œRecessâ€ provides a break from instructional activities, but itâ€™s lack of structure is not always most developmentally appropriate for our youngest students”
Blog Title: â€œRecess Is Not Developmentally Appropriate for Our Youngest Studentsâ€
Two very different takeaways don’t you think? Especially if the school DOES have daily recess.
The superintendent is saying exactly the same thing as some people said in the “bully on the playground” post. I’m not saying I agree with him (or them), I’ve never met the guy, I don’t know what he was presented with, I don’t know the school’s schedule, I don’t know anything. I just know that the kids are getting recess every day and a set of parents want more and the school isn’t giving in to them.
None of that is the least bit shocking to me.
@Papilio , I mentioned the other post because several commenters talked about how they wished their kids weren’t forced to go outside for recess (with or w/o bullies). I don’t happen to agree with that, but my point was that there are parents who want MORE recess and parents who would welcome LESS.
As far as the 2 times/week PE…please not that these kids DO get recess every day…but the parents want more or longer (they don’t really say what specifically they want).
E – AMEN! Glad that someone else has finally commented on this in the school threads.
That said, the Superintendent’s letter is not surprising. Much of society DOES believe that it is developmentally inappropriate for young children to have free play. THAT is exactly why this blog exists at all!! The fact that some professionals sign onto this trend is not surprising.
I firmly believe that we get the world that we create (by “we,” I mean society in general, not the people here). Society wants test scores and the babying of children so we have focus on academics and babying of children in schools. Until society changes, schools are not going to change because they reflect the wants of the majority of society, not the outliers like us.
E, please educate yourself on the developmental stages of childhood and appropriate developmental activities before you come back and post again.
You are clearly either completely ignorant of the basics of developmental learning and how children’s brains develop, or you are a professional troll.
Either way, please go learn some of the more basic stuff about this topic before you ask more (deliberately??) stupid questions, okay?
I was going to comment as well on the inappropriate use of “it’s”…and I guess I’m going to mention it anyway even though someone else already has! (Feel free to nitpick my run-on sentence!)
I don’t expect everyone’s grammar, spelling, and usage to be perfect, but I DO expect that in communications from teachers and school administrators.
And @E, if you don’t care for this blog or the way it’s (got it right! ha!) presented, you are not required to read it.
This makes me so sad.
@Suzanne Lucas — I recognize that name! Evil HR Lady reads Free Range Kids! Who woulda thunkit! 🙂
More to the point, this parent who has been dedicated to public education is leaning more and more toward homeschooling these days… *sigh*
@E: I should probably mention I hadn’t read your last comment when I posted mine.
But this superintendent mentions the PE lessons as an alternative for recess for the kids to meet their gross motor development need and their need to move around in the first place.
My old primary school has recess every day and in addition to that, the 4 & 5yos have PE lessons twice a DAY.
The other post about bullying was about all ages and about forcing kids outside who didn’t want to – that is still something different from not even giving Kindergartners the chance to go outside.
I just don’t find the inclusion of “always” that significant, though you’re right it changes the color just a bit. Still, what can it mean except that he believes that recess is, in some situations, bad for young kids, that in some cases, kids are better off doing “structured” activities six hours a day, and ALL THE KIDS IN HIS DISTRICT are the ones to whom that applies? I’m still not buying that he should be in charge of educating 5 year olds with that mentality, no matter what books he read it in and what jargon he has to back it up.
“I bet if you sat down with the Superintendent, youâ€™d probably find that he actually DOES want kids to succeed.”
That he wants the right thing is laudable, and I didn’t say he was a terrible person. He’s incompetent, though, if he believes that.
Again, it’s not a difference between “what some people want” and “what other people want,” it’s a completely bogus belief that recess is, often enough to use it as a justification for his policy, worse for kids than not having recess. If the most wonderful human being on the planet believes that, MWHBOTP should not be superintendent of schools anywhere. Whether the consensus among parents or administrators that it’s best to have or not have recess in a certain situation is a different issue from superintendents who believe idiotic things and use them as the basis for policy.
@ Forsythia , you seem to have misunderstood me. I believe in recess. I would never ever complain about my kids being forced to take recess.
I said the comments in bold were odd.
My point (that I guess Donna got), were that for every parent that wants more of THIS, there are parents that was LESS of it, or more of SOMETHING ELSE.
I have numerous educators in my family. I’ve been a school volunteer since my kids stepped in school. In fact, now that they are out, I STILL volunteer in the schools.
I also realize that this school DOES have recess. I’m not advocating the viewpoint that young kids don’t need recess. And I never posted that.
I appreciate your response and the other that says if I don’t agree with the post, I shouldn’t read it. That’s productive!
In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards. — Mark Twain
Over 100 years later, nothing’s changed.
@pentamom. I guess I’m willing to entertain the idea that what I feel after reading the sentence may not be the way I’d feel if I’d been in a discussion with them. Much like what happens in the comments section. There’s posts, reactions, clarifications, etc.
I’d also entertain the idea, that responding to a parent about recess, might not be the only concern that rises to the level of Superintendent in a given day.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we know every single thing there is to know by these excerpts.
@pentamom – Where does the Superintendent say anywhere that he believes that not having recess at all is better for some kids? The Superintendent has not been called on to justify why there is no recess. He is not justifying a desire to cut off all recess. He is simply explaining why there is not more than 20 minutes of recess in a school day. His comment could be equally construed to “free play is good but not all the time.”
When we see statistics that say American kids are getting fatter and fatter each year, it’s hard to believe why we find this a mystery. This Superintendent’s letter is part of the problem and should make it obvious. If kids spend a large portion of their time during the school day in “center based learning time” which I think might entail sitting in front of a computer, then their preferred recreational choices might translate solely into computer video games. Now computer video games are fine and computer skills are certainly important in this day and age BUT it doesn’t do much for physical fitness. And why do young kids necessarily need structure to their physical play time? Just let’em play and they’ll figure out what to do!
Most recently I saw a study that said kids from all western countries were found to be slower and have less endurance than their parents did EXCEPT for Japan, of all places. It was found that Japanese kids today did not differ much from their parents when it came to endurance, quickness (i.e. running, sprinting) and general physical fitness. Perhaps because Japanese kids walk to school unattended more so than American kids do and maybe because Japanese kids get out to play more than American kids do also. Considering Japan is a high tech culture, maybe even more so than ours’, Americans really have no excuse and should try emulating Japan in their approach to kids. Just my observation and opinion.
“More to the point, this parent who has been dedicated to public education is leaning more and more toward homeschooling these daysâ€¦ *sigh*” Don’t sigh, Josh S. Well, I mean I’m sighing, too, over this and other problems with institutionalized schooling. But don’t think of homeschooling as an escape from school that wouldn’t be needed if only the schools would shape up. Home education is a very positive good, not merely the last refuge of desperate parents.
“How much recess time do parents expect?”
Well, in Finland they get 15 minutes every hour, throughout elementary school, and they do pretty well, so lets start there!
When I was in kindergarten (1989-1990), we didn’t start having recess with the rest of the school until sometime in the middle of the school year–I remember it was in the middle of the school year, because it was winter. Anyway, in the previous months, we still played outside; sometimes on the playground equipment, and sometimes we’d ride our class’ fleet of tricycles and scooters around the blacktop. We also had gym class regularly (once or twice per week, if I remember correctly). However, the reason why we didn’t have recess with the rest of the school from day one, was because a lot of us were attending school for the very first time. I had attended preschool, but I was in the minority, unlike today. So, my understanding was that the administration didn’t think it was wise to overwhelm a class of five-year-olds wit big, noisy, crowded recesses with the whole school right off the bat. So, we had plenty of outside time; we just didn’t call it recess. Also, back then, kindergarten students only attended half days–I was in the afternoon class.
@John: Please, do you remember where you read that? I read about that study, but the only country-specific info I’ve seen was about the USA (where of course the problem was worse than average) and Australia (don’t remember).
I was curious to see how my country is doing, but I don’t even know if it was among those 28 countries in that study, as all I could find were press releases, not the actual article by the researchers themselves, with some real data.
“Where does the Superintendent say anywhere that he believes that not having recess at all is better for some kids? ”
I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I don’t know how else you interpret the sentence:
â€œRecessâ€ provides a break from instructional activities, but itâ€™s lack of structure is not always most developmentally appropriate for our youngest students.
If it is not always most developmentally appropriate, then sometimes it is bad for them, because it is developmentally inappropriate. What else could it mean? Is developmentally inappropriate not a “bad” thing?
There may be arguments made that recess is less desirable than no recess for five year olds in some situations (though I have trouble imagining one that I’d find convincing.) I simply have no time, though, for paid professionals who believe nonsense.
Here’s a correction to the bad link to that second article I mentioned up in comment #2:
“If kids spend a large portion of their time during the school day in â€œcenter based learning timeâ€ which I think might entail sitting in front of a computer,”
Do you have children? Have you ever been in a classroom?
I certainly can’t speak for all schools but my elementary school doesn’t even have a computer in the classroom. There are a couple ipads that they use occasionally and a computer class (in a separate room) once a week, but that is it. Centers involve many different things including individualized help, the ipads, books, flashcards, physically manipulating items to count and categorize, art projects, going outside to the school gardens, and several other things depending on the lessons being taught.
I don’t think school is the problem with less fit kids. My kid’s school day involves a whole lot more fun than my 2nd grade school day in 1977. We only had one recess, and we didn’t have “dance party” (the teacher turns on music and the kids all dance for 10-15 minutes every morning) or school gardens to plant and maintain.
The difference is AFTER SCHOOL. We all went home, did a small amount of homework and then hit the streets until dinner. On weekends, we were out playing. We didn’t stick around school for several more hours in after school care, then spend 2 hours doing homework and getting taken to various structured activities. We didn’t get planted in front of the TV rather than going alone to the park on the weekends. We were allowed to climb trees, jump creeks, and ride bikes and skateboards for distances longer than our own driveway. We spent our winters having snowball fights, sledding and ice skating with our friends and not cooped up in the house complaining that it was too cold outside.
@pentamom, I think the point Donna and I (well I shouldn’t speak for Donna) is that we have 1 paragraph of his comments in regard to a described concern. We don’t see what he is specifically responding to and we don’t (unless this was the sum total of his correspondence) know what came before or after.
Given that the school (by the parent’s admission) has 20 minutes of recess, I am making the presumption that he’s responding to the request that they’d like to see more, rather than the suggestion that he doesn’t believe in recess at all for this age group. He’s using
We’re all reading between the few lines we’ve been provided.
By law my guys get a morning break, an afternoon break and lunch. If the Ministy of Labour has made this part of the labour code, for adults, why can we not make it law for students as well?
“â€œRecessâ€ provides a break from instructional activities, but itâ€™s lack of structure is not always most developmentally appropriate for our youngest students.
If it is not always most developmentally appropriate, then sometimes it is bad for them, because it is developmentally inappropriate.”
Not necessarily. That could also easily be interpreted as it is not good to always engage in free play, meaning that young children need structured activities in their day too. This interpretation makes far more sense in the context of a justification for not increasing the amount of time in recess.
This letter was not addressing eliminating recess in the least so I am not sure why you are so certain that this Superintendent would love to do so. This letter was likely written pretty hastily. Sorry, but if the Superintendent is not dealing with far more pressing issues on a daily basis than a single family asking repeatedly for more recess time, then the job needs to be eliminated.
Our kids awesome school addresses this issue if kindergarteners possibly not being developmentally ready for recess by helping them become ready. I have to say when my oldest was starting kindergarten the thought of her tiny body being shoved out the door to a playground of rowdy big kids (yes 10 and 11 year olds were huge to me then) stressed me out. But silly me, the school was smarter than that. They had the kinder kids go out as a class on their own with their teacher for a few weeks, then they started going with the elementary kids with their teacher and eventually on their own with the knowledge of how to find playground supervisors if needed. By that point thy are familiar with the routine, have deeliped a relationship and trust with several big kids who are their classroom buddies, and they have fun. They also have a schedule for the actual playground equiptment so the big kids and little kids have a chance to play to their own age abilities safely and even the little kids can follow this routine easily and they can all play on the field. After volunteering one day in class I went to my car and saw my tiny sweet little kinder kid rough housing and playing with those big kids who had worried me as they were her friends:)
They also allow for lots of daily physical activity, providing supervisors for morning play if you want to drop your kids off a bit early in the playground (they say it is good for learning), they have P.E. or DPA (daily physical activity) each day outside if it is not too cold, 2 recesses and lots of body breaks to dancing, play physical games and even the chance to stand by your desk to work, sit on an exersize ball or a wiggle chair if you need to move to focus. It is NOT normal to expect a kid of any age to sit still all day.
I now have a concussion from hitting my head on my desk so hard. Not developmentally appropriate, my shiny white butt.
“the kinder kids”
OK, completely off-topic, but I had to read that three times… 😀
First I thought ‘the more kind kids’, then my mind switched to German translation mode and I read ‘the children kids’, and only after that I got what was actually meant 🙂
Twice weekly PE? WTF? How about daily PE and recess?
My kid’s elem school had 1 PE teacher and 5 classes of students for every grade. It was a multi-track year round school so there were 3-4 classes in session for each grade a given time (18-24 classrooms total). It would have been impossible to have daily PE for each student with only 1 PE instructor.
And that has nothing to do with Superintendents, but rather school budgets.
This response strikes me as lazy. The excuses then trying to explain it as part of development couldn’t be more far off especially when looking at current data and the importance of play.
My kids went to 1/2 day afternoon kindergarten. The kindergarteners had their own separate playground. We usually spent our mornings going to parks and meeting with friends to run the snot out of the kids, feed them lunch, and send them off to school. They were developmentally ready for an afternoon of sedentary activity with a break for recess. This play-intensive schedule kept them healthy, happy, and well-behaved.
Too many people in leadership positions feel they have to “do something” to justify their continued employment. Making a decision to do nothing, leaving well enough alone, can take great courage and requires wisdom.
Depending on the candidate, I’ll sometimes ask during an interview to describe an instance in which they decided to not act. I also sometimes ask candidates to describe their evolution towards becoming a wiser person, a question that often draws blank stares.
If ever I’m elected to a school board and participate in selecting a new superintendent, I’ll ask about wisdom.
My kids’ school has a full day kindergarten, and one of the things the teachers like about it is that they can meet the academic expectations their classes are supposed to have these days and still give the kids lots of play time. Little kids need to move around.
I gotta ask–is that excerpt from the superintendent’s letter a literal and actual excerpt, down to and including “…itâ€™s lack of structure…” which incorrectly uses “it’s” in place of “its”? If a school superintendent does not know the difference between the two pronoun forms, that school district has more problems than recess issues.
We keep putting the loonies in positions of power and influence.
Also, E, I forgot to mention that I never suggested taking away outdoor recess for students who enjoy and benefit from it. All I said was that I believed there should be other recess options for students who need a break from the constant interaction that seems to be expected of students over the course of a school day, that usually lasts six hours or more.
I don’t think the “developmentally appropriate” means what he thinks it means.
Perhaps he was trying to say that some five year old are overwhelmed by more than 20 minutes of playground time with a large crowd of all the other children? It seems the proper fix for that would be to let younger children have a less crowded recess time by themselves, rather than simply eliminating more recess time.
Perhaps he meant that recess stimulates young children and they come inside full of energy, which makes it harder for teachers to immediately move them into quiet seat activities? That seems like a structure, timing and transition issue rather than a recess issue. It isn’t developmentally appropriate to expect children to be able to turn off that energy like a switch. Maybe the district teachers need more training in how to transition and appropriate activities to schedule directly after outside time, rather than simply eliminating more recess for their convenience.
Maybe the man is just a blooming idiot that needs to be retrained or removed from his position, rather than limiting recess to 20 minutes a day for young children?
What it isn’t, is an issue of one parent wanting one thing and another parent wanting another thing, with the school day. This superintendent either spewed muck or had no idea what he’s talking about. Either way it’s pretty bad and needs to be addressed because the kids are getting shorted, in many ways, because of it.
It is not developmentally appropriate for five year old to have 20 minutes of recess in a six hour day. Non-structured, free play is essential to the proper development and learning in early childhood. Five year old children are in early childhood (this is a fact lost on many educators and most elementary teachers have no training at all in early childhood). This means centers and other table/structured work, no matter how fun it is, is not a substitute for unstructured recess. Interactive music or spanish classes are still structured and planned as are PE classes. They do not take the place of unstructured free play time where children are free to do large motor activities, make noise, or simply count the weeds on the lawn and play house. This is how young children learn best and develop their brains.
To be developmentally appropriate, a five year old should have more unstructured play time, both inside and out, than structured learning time. I realize this will never happen within public schools (which is why I strongly suggest people delay sending little ones there). However to ever suggest that recess is ever developmentally bad for children, as a basis for limiting recess to a single 20 minute time, is simply moronic. It isn’t based on anything to do with developmental appropriateness. That reasoning isn’t even in the same grouping as developmentally appropriate.
If the schools don’t feel they have time (or more likely the administrators) to give five year olds more than 20 minutes a day of recess, then they should at least have the bravery to be honest and say it. That way it’s out there and can be addressed.
Perhaps before the superintendent start calling things developmentally appropriate or inappropriate, he should become educated in what that actually is (or stop thinking nobody else is so they can’t see through the muck he spews).
I grew up in the 80s and attended private elementary school, where we had gym once a week. In public middle school, we were on an A/B day system, so we had gym either two or three times a week, depending on the week. In public high school, two semesters of gym for the entire four years were required for graduation. I’m not sure where this outrage over lack of daily PE is coming from, as if it’s a new thing. In my state, it’s been that way for decades.
My kids attend private school, where my third grader has gym twice a week and my first grader has it once a week. There are 11 classes in the school and one PE teacher, as well as art, music, library, Spanish and computer, and the usual academic stuff. And actual outdoor recess, so I’m not sure where extra gym would go in a school day that’s already 7+ hours.
I think children should at least have three recesses a day, for at least 60 minutes total. I can maybe get behind replacing one recess with PE. And I think they should be active (there should be a place kids who want to sit down and talk or read can sit, but there should be a variety of unstructured and semi structured activities).
Here, though, they aren’t active. If it’s below 32* F or raining, they have “indoor recess” (this is northern illinois, so about half the school year it’s below 32* F or raining). Since they eat lunch in the gym, and the daily recess is 20 minutes after lunch, they have recess in the classrooms. Which consists of sitting at desks and watching a movie, or with their heads down on their desk if they’re too hyper.
It’s bonkers. Oh, and we have a large low income population (we’re at like 70% free/reduced lunch), but we also have multiple programs that make sure every kid who NEEDS a coat has one. I was at dismissal every day last year and never saw a child without a coat, gloves, and hat in cold weather. But their reasoning is not all children are dressed appropriate for the weather.
I’m shaking my head right now… Where in the world was this person educated? I remember when the school at which I taught was contemplating going to full day from 1/2 day kindergarten, because the teacher couldn’t get all the academic work in. Really? Can’t we think about what children really need and allow them to live? I am thankful my children are home schooled, and am ashamed of country that has such an impoverished education system.
I’m 55 years old, my wife is a kindergarten teacher, she has 2 great kids(older now and on their own)…they PLAYED…and still do…and they’re self-supporting free spirits, doing what they do, going where they want w/o fear of “creepy white vans”, etc., etc. street smart. life smart they are!!! She believes very strongly that KIDS NEED TO PLAY!!!! BTW, I think the term “Helicopter”should be replaced with ‘Drone”…same effect but add the droning on and on of them at PTO meetings…
I still get a kick out of the fact people are talking about PE instructors for elementary schools. We never had a designated gym teacher until high school. Still that way in most schools in this area. Talk about a waste of funds, and a built in excuse for minimal gym classes, because of having only one teacher.
Why the hell don’t the classroom teachers also teach PE, like here?
And don’t preach training and qualifications, because you don’t need formal education to get the kids active in the gym or on the field. You just need an IQ over 10.
“You just need an IQ over 10.”
For school employees, that’s not developmentally appropriate.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at that letter. (Including the improper use of an apostrophe.)
Sadly, though, a lot of people think that’s enough movement for kids that age.
One thing I like about my kids’ school is that they do have outside recess every day that is about 20F and not pouring. And they have it 2x per day, 3x if you include aftercare. In addition to gym 2x per week. On top of that, my kids still benefit from doing something physical every evening. I know some people may think it’s overkill, but I think it’s developmentally appropriate for their age. 😉
Then again, maybe the accurate translation is “we don’t have enough recess aides.” Or, “some of the kids’ parents don’t want them outside in the cold.”
What on earth? Unstructured play time is CRITICAL for the early years of development, absolutely crucial. This play time helps these kids learn about and experiment with their world and think out problems and solutions. This playtime might not seem like learning time, but it is such a crucial part of child development. If my children were at that school, I would be taking them out and home schooling them if I had received such a letter, or I would be at least trying to band all the parents together with research on how critical play is in early childhood development. This just makes me angry.
So many rebuttals come to mind… Adults can attend for 40 minutes on average, how long do you think a child can? There’s this thing called play — it’s a very necessary developmental milestone. There’s this thing called natural learning, it happens on playgrounds and in non-academics. I’ll stop there. Whoa.
Warren–I think it takes more than “an I.Q. over 10” to properly teach physical education classes. Now, I’m not stupid, but I couldn’t teach gym, because I’m not athletic–I mean, sure, I could teach yoga (and I’ve done so), and possibly swimming (I’ve done that too), and I could show older kids how to use weights machines, but I’d be worse than useless at teaching kids how to play traditional team sports with balls/pucks/Frisbees/whatever, because I’m no good at those things myself. In fact, I think that’s part of the problem–a lot of the gym teachers I had in my youth were good athletes, but didn’t understand what it was like NOT to be good at sports, so when they saw an otherwise good student struggle in gym, they really didn’t know how to address it, and often saw it as, “This student isn’t trying, so I need to discipline or publicly humiliate her.” Now, of course I think kids should be encouraged to engage in physical activity, whatever that ends up being (traditional sports, yoga, Zumba, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, ice skating, Rollerblading, nature walks or hikes, free play on the playground, whatever), but the fact remains that there are probably a lot of teachers out there who do fine teaching in the classroom, but teaching gym is another story.
When my brother was in grade two, the class did something called ParticipAction, where the kids came home with colourful charts with footprints on them, and they had to fill in a certain number of footprints with different colours–one colour for physical activities, another colour for mental exercises (reading, word puzzles, etc.), another colour for taking part in cooking healthy meals, and so on. I really like that approach, because it teaches kids that physical activity isn’t just something you do in gym class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from ten until eleven because it’s on the schedule; it’s something that you can (and should) fit into your everyday life, whether that means walking to school every day, after-school swimming lessons, or just playing tag in the park on a Saturday afternoon because it’s fun. In my brother’s case, there weren’t any required numbers of footprints that the students had to earn, and this wasn’t a replacement for regular gym classes; it was just an exercise to teach them about exercise.
We homeschool, but my kids take some classes at a charter school style public school that caters to homeschoolers. My daughter is in a STEM class for 7th and 8th graders.
Last week when I went to pick her up, I saw the following. The class came out of the room at the end of the day and the kids came across the blacktopped basketball area. As they got on it, one boy threw his bad down and flopped to the ground then, on his side, started turning in circles with his shoulder as the pivot. Sort of 3 Stooges or Homer Simpson style.
After my daughter got in the car (we are over 8 miles from home and there are no buses) she explained that the school district has a rule that if it is 20 degrees or below that the kids are not allowed outside for recess. Most of these boys spend their time outside playing intense and very active basketball which they were not allowed to do and in my opinion, would have been fine doing even if they didn’t have a coat. The wind wasn’t blowing and if they were moving they would have been fine. However, other than the now scuffed and maybe torn shoulder on the one kid, all the kids had coats.
So my long winded point in all of this is that these were 7th and 8th graders. And sure, they probably ALL did active stuff the day before. But the point is they need it EVERY day! And little kids need it even MORE. To say that a kinder kid can only move around for 20 minutes a day is really pushing it with a half day kinder – it is REALLY bad for a whole day. The kids would be much more alert and ready to retain material if the teachers let them have a longer break.
My daughter when in traditional school had close to 2 hours of time to move around out side – in 1st grade!
I’m a first grade teacher of 27 students and I can guarantee you that no teacher I know has ever advocated for less recess, and we are the recess monitors do it’s not time off for us! The kids need time to run and play or there is no way to get them to listen and do the things we need in the classroom. Recess time has gone down to many factors, one being curriculum and testing standards. When you’re going to be tested on all of these indicators and your school is under pressure to make every second of instructional time count, untested subjects and free time are the first to go. Another is liability. Recess is free time, and as such kids are more likely to do things they can’t get away with in the classroom and they’re more likely to get hurt. It’s really difficult to watch 150 tuning and screaming 6 year olds at the same time!
His statement is the exact opposite to EVERYTHING science knows about child education and neural development. He could not be more wrong. This policy is guaranteed to make his students worse.
You are completely correct, but I can’t help but have the thought that educators can’t win, either. If a school had tons of recess and free time, parents would complain that their kids weren’t learning anything. The system stinks.
I don’t agree with the poster who made the comment of needing an “IQ” over 10 to teach PE classes. Of all the things I was surprised about when my kids entered elementary school, one of them was how awesome the PE teacher is. She is thoughtful, engaged and exposes kids to a wide variety of activities. She was certainly a big change from most of my PE teachers, who just rotated the same few activities over and over.
As far as the letter from the superintendent…how unfortunate that he is that disconnected from what actually is developmentally appropriated.
The bit about the US military was interesting.
Hey, does anyone else here remember Muriel Stacy, the “groundbreaking” teacher on Road to Avonlea (which was set about a hundred years ago in Prince Edward Island), who had her students doing jumping jacks outside in the schoolyard while reciting their multiplication tables? Again, not a substitute for recess (and they still had recess separate from that), but I can still see that as a really good way to teach anything that involves rote memorization. Not only is it more fun (and healthier) than a traditional sit-down lesson, but also, the rhythm of the jumping and chanting makes it easier for the students to retain the information. I’m not saying that teachers should borrow all of their methods from Road to Avonlea, but this particular method seems pretty effective. I wonder why we don’t see more of that now.
I’ve been an educator for twenty years and I’m tired of this being a forum to bash and insult educators. I’m not sure why people think that reading one paragraph of a private letter out of context gives them the perspective to make assumptions and cast aspersions on a person’s ability to do their job. Everyone thinks they best know how a school should run simply because they once attended one. There are multiple systems issues that come to bear on most seemingly simple decisions. For this woman to horn in on the issue by offering to get donated coats for the kids who don’t bring coats is outrageous. You want to know what is the primary cause of schools making decisions that seem counter-intuitive to what would be best for kids? PARENTS. They all have their own agendas, based on their individual child’s needs, and its impossible to implement policies and procedures that please everyone. And then people like this take up a superintendent’s valuable time with multiple requests and intrusions. Maybe if parents are so concerned about free play time for kids they need to turn off the computer games and provide that after school. Early elementary classrooms are very movement based in general, and while it might not be “free play,” they are usually very active. Maybe they don’t have the staff to supervise the kids. Maybe the parents are putting pressure on them regarding their test scores. Maybe, out of all of the things they are being pressured to do, which I assure you are numerous, this is just not the top priority. Why people find it necessary to call for a superintendent’s firing based on their take away from a small portion of a letter is beyond me, and seemed very anti- free range. Talk about overreacting!
I don’t understand how any of the activities they give as being “student directed” are such, if you give a child several options but all have specific instructions regarding how to complete them they aren’t really student directed. If a child goes to the word stamp center and decides that the stamps would make good building blocks (for example) I believe that they would be “guided” to use the stamps to stamp letters and try to make words. Why not be honest and just say independent play takes away from our trying to turn your child into a mindless robot – we do not want them to learn to think for themselves, which might happen if they engage in unstructured play so we have made great strides toward eliminating it.
Somehow, there is much confusion among school administration on what is developmentally appropriate for 5-6 year olds.
This one is insane too:
I understand that it’s not always easy to monitor a playground full of six-year-olds, but how did they do it when I was a kid? We played on blacktop (parking lot) and there was no sensitivity training for impulsive kids or bullies in those days.
I’d think it’s harder to monitor a lot of first graders in the bathrooms. I hope bathroom breaks aren’t the next to go. Followed by lunch….
“Maybe if parents are so concerned about free play time for kids they need to turn off the computer games and provide that after school.”
And you somehow know FOR A FACT that all parents who want their kindergartners to have more than one recess a day deny their children free play after school, and make their kids sit in front of computers? If so, how do you know that?
@Buffy, she doesn’t know that and that wasn’t her point. Just like we don’t know anything about the school in question, the day’s schedule, what kind of freetime activities they have in the classroom, etc. We don’t know anything about the Superintendent other than this snippet, but that’s moved people to demand his firing.
I applaud Sue Carney for speaking up for educators and schools. They get criticized over and over here (and lots of other places) with just little soundbites to go on.
This parent wants more or longer recess. (again, they don’t say exactly what they’ve asked for, who they’ve asked, and how many times, and in what way). They believe the teacher/school should re-structure the day to allow for more recess. They didn’t like the answer so they continued up the food chain until the got the Superintendent.
I think the point Sue is making is that parents want the educational structure that they want. Perhaps they’ve got studies or articles to back up “this is a good thing”, but that doesn’t always mean there aren’t other things that are good or worthwhile or whatever that compete with this “good thing”.
I used to volunteer to lead an OPTIONAL activity called “Math Super Stars”. It was an extra worksheet that went home and then the kids that completed them would meet with me once a week to review. I’d collect the sheets and review them and then they’d go back to the teachers for review. A few days before the end of a quarter, I had a parent call me at home (the volunteer) and beg me to grade little Johnny’s paper he would be turning in the following day and get the back to the teachers for inclusion for a few extra credit point. I was a volunteer who was called at my home to make sure her ELEMENTARY school kid got a few extra points by cramming in about 6 worksheets into 1 day.
No one is saying that recess is bad. No one is saying that the Superintendent worded his (out of context) reply the best way. But let’s acknowledge that perhaps, just perhaps, a parent who is willing to try to restructure the entire school day because *they* believe the kids need more recess is one of LOTS of parents who believe their “school improvement” should be accepted and implemented.
And to just illustrate a point about soundbites and such…one of the stories on this website, about the MASS HS volleyball student who was punished even though she was only a “designated driver” at a party….well that wasn’t exactly true as it turns out.
I was appalled at the school’s stance that made no sense (that even being there was a violation) and this article points out that there is NO “zero tolerance” policy in regard to it. The school was taken to task here over a policy that apparently never existed and punishment that wasn’t bogus.
Anyway – I’m not suggesting that anyone has misrepresented the Superintendent’s email at all. I’m just saying there is always more to consider.
“I think the point Sue is making is that parents want the educational structure that they want. Perhaps theyâ€™ve got studies or articles to back up â€œthis is a good thingâ€, but that doesnâ€™t always mean there arenâ€™t other things that are good or worthwhile or whatever that compete with this â€œgood thing.”
I think you’re overthinking this.
The CDC recommends 1 hour of vigorous activity for children every day. So if children are in school for most of daylight hours (6-7) and sleep recommendations are 9-10 each night, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that kids need to get a large portion of activity at school. Exercise and play are very basic requirements for young children and any way you slice it, reasoning away free play and recess. Not only is it a matter of education, more importantly it’s a matter of health and well-being.
I agree with most people who said that this statement by the superintendent is silly at best and detrimental at worst:
â€œRecessâ€ provides a break from instructional activities, but itâ€™s lack of structure is not always most developmentally appropriate for our youngest students.
Does that mean that young kids must be structured every minute?
But, I also agree with the LW who said that demanding the superintendent be fired for that explanation of less recess time should be fired or replaced.
When my kids were in elementary school, if there was a school policy that a majority of parents either had a problem with or wanted to discuss, there were a variety of forums in which to do so: PTA meetings, School Leadership Team meetings (elected reps were supposed to bring such concerns to the table), and access to a principal who was at least willing to hear and consider complaints.
I would suggest that a small group of parents try that approach first and seek a better understanding of exactly why this rule has been put in place, because it does certainly seem suspicious that the mother was given a number of different reasons.
I suspect that lack of adult supervision at recess could well be the reason (a problem at my children’s school, so we came up with a plan to have some parent volunteers sign up to monitor recess in a very hands-off way: keep an eye out for over-rowdy behavior, violence against another kid, and the like). This solved the problem of not enough faculty and restored a fair amount of recess every day. For her part, the principal informed parents that children needed to come to school dressed correctly for the weather. Unless it was pouring rain or under 20 degrees, they’d be out at recess in all weather, and if a child was deemed to be underdressed he/she would have to sit inside the school lobby for the duration.
These solutions were very helpful with the situation. I suggest school staffs and parents work together to solve their issues in these ways rather than bashing each other.
@ lollipoplover , you don’t think kids can find 40 additional minutes to play outdoors outside of school? For parts of my kids ES lives, I worked full time. They went to an afterschool program run by the YMCA. They had plenty of time to play. On days they came home, they had plenty of time to play….certainly 40 minutes worth!
It’s unbelievable to me that this needs a response with an EXPLANATION or ELABORATION. My response… “What? Just what?”
â€œMaybe if parents are so concerned about free play time for kids they need to turn off the computer games and provide that after school.â€
I dunno. Sounds pretty accusatory to me. Whatever her point was, this did not help get it across.
The purpose of recess is for children to put to good use what they have learned in the classroom. Not only does it give a child space to do this, it also helps her to develop and organize her body. A child’s body is its tool for learning. If a child is not given the space to develop and automate movement, their focus will be on moving and not thinking. I believe kids need time and space to automate movement so their brain is free to learn. BRING BACK RECESS! Not twice a week – EVERY WEEK, SEVERAL TIMES A DAY!
Wait, what. She gets TWENTY minutes a day? More than some get here in Florida.
I apologize for my earlier autotype mistakes- that was running and screaming first graders, not tuning. Also, I am not saying that I think it is impossible to watch a grade full of six year olds, just that it is impossible to watch every one of them at every second and sometimes things happen with that freedom. Like many posters have said, each parent has their own agenda- their child. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that we’re trying to meet 27 different agendas in one classroom, 150 in a grade level, etc. While this parent wants more recess time (justifiably) there are probably also parents asking how to get more instructional time, how to make sure their child passes certain tests or covers certain concepts (also justifiably.) The schools are really put in a no win situation because it is impossible to make every parent and every child happy all the time.
@E- kids can find time even going to and from school on foot or bike to get physical activity but 7 hours is a looong day with only a 20 minute recess. And before and after care programs are wonderful, but they cost money. Because to play on school property before or after school requires adult supervision and is no longer *safe* to do unlike when we were younger (I remember playing on the playground all the time with my friends before school started, that’s where we went after the buses dropped us off. I don’t remember ever seeing a teacher out there!)
We adopted a puppy from a rescue last year and one of the requirements for a dog that is under a year was that someone had to be at home to give the dog breaks throughout the day. They considered it inhumane to leave a puppy in a crate for 7-8 hour stretches. I agree. Kind of like children.
Anyone who has raised a puppy knows they need frequent outdoor breaks for both exercise and good behavior. Leave a dog too long in a crate and it’s like releasing the Tasmanian devil from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. My dogs need to run every day to behave. They are like toddlers on Red Bull. They need outdoor time to calm the f@#! down. Some kids are like this too. But I fear we are medicating most of them at this point so they can pay attention through a 7 hour day when all they really need is more time to play.
@lollipop, I was just responding to your post about how it might be hard for kids to get in enough play time for that CDC guideline. It’s not that hard.
I realize that recess is good. I realize that there may be cases that they should get more. I also realize that there are other “good things” that parents probably ask the school to provide. Basically what Casey said a few posts ago.
It might have been helpful if we knew more about what happened before she went to the Superintendent. Were they the only parents to request this? Had they talked to the PTA about it? Do they have any older children at the school? Is this their first child in school, which would mean just a few months of being part of the school system? Etc.
No one has said more recess would be bad. But that doesn’t mean it’s should absolutely be done (or probably or accurately *can* be done), or be done because 1 set of parents asked for it.
Daggone, I was just thinking about Last Child in the Woods (which I know of but haven’t read) when I had talked about wanting my children to go venture in the woods with friends, which I don’t think they are doing enough of.
I will say this. My youngest has had developmental delays and has always seemed to be more immature than his peers. Last year, we had the breaks put on the massive amounts of homework, that he complete as much practice work at school as possible. It did wonders for him, he was outside, going to friends houses to play, free to develop things on his own. I noticed his thinking ability increase a great deal as well as his maturity and confidence. Neighborhood parents noticed a difference in him as well.
We got hand-slapped for that at the end of the year. The teachers never invited discussion of our request at the beginning of the year, kept his homework book at school, sent occasional assignments home, and took the passive-aggressive approach with us. But my kid ended up doing pretty good at the end of the year without the load. But hey, it proves early grades can be done without extending their child’s academic day for hours at home.
I think our name got passed on to the next teacher who had a harshly worded letter to all parents at the beginning of the year about her homework policy. We’re not making waves right now so it’s back to the old grind, averaging 1 1/2 hours but sometimes 2 after school which I think is excessive. I think the teacher put the fear of God in him and he is determined to get it all done every day. I am letting him take the responsibility but I feel sorry for him as well and am tempted to intervene and stop him after thirty minutes.
They keep crying about the “Creativity Crisis”. The importance of free-play and non-adult structured activities cannot be over-emphasized. How are the educators missing this important element??! Not to mention the childhood obesity problem. Would you believe our school wanted to start a “walking program” at recess for the children a couple years ago? In thinking about it, it sounds like that prison trudging photo. I spoke up, if kids didn’t have to do so much homework maybe they could go outside and ride their bike after school or run in their back yard. Encourage them to run and play games. I’m not sure if the walking program got off the ground or how long it lasted. I do know they got rid of the baseball diamond which is a shame, the kids played kickball among themselves at school.
Common Core is going to effect this even more.
I’m stuck at ” the need for movement and gross motor development is met through twice weekly.”
ummm…what?!? 5 year olds only need activity 2X a week?!? What planet do those children come from, because I’ll take those calm little zombies any day. Well, not really because then my job would be dull.
I’m hoping there is a typo in there – that the superintendent really meant to say “twice DAILY”
I agree with Sue Carney (well, the main thrust anyway) and with t. Educators shouldn’t be blamed, and to a large extent, neither should administrators. The problem is that schools have missions that inherently contain contradictions. The problem is not bad teachers, lazy teachers, or stupid administrators. The problem is schools. They’re trying to do things they weren’t designed for. Bismarck designed the basic model we use (copied by Horace Mann, then copied throughout the US) for the purpose of training obedient workers. We want schools to do something else. They aren’t cut out for it.
The only answers are to massively change schools – to the extent that calling them schools is rather inappropriate, such as Sudbury schools, and limit the schools we have now to things like training fehor professions, to construct a society where children and welcome and expected, and where learning is encouraged for all, or to homeschool/unschool in a spontaneous, non-adult directed way.