Everybody’s heard about Finland and all the recess breaks it gives its elementary students — a 15-minute break every hour. Blah-de-blah-de-blah. How can teachers be expected to take all that time off when there’s so much material to go through, and all that standardized testing?
Short answer — there’s no way to know how it will work until it’s been tried. In an article from KQED.org, an American teacher described his experience with 5th graders when trying out the American and then the Finnish model. Students were much more attentive throughout the entire day with frequent breaks. He found that the key to increased attentiveness wasn’t necessarily having kids go outside every hour…it was giving them free time. (And it was helpful for the teacher, too!)
An elementary school in Fort Worth, Texas, has expanded its recess time to an hour a day — two 15-minute breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon. A teacher there said her students are less fidgety and more focused because of the breaks. She said they listen more attentively, follow directions and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything. There are fewer discipline issues. “We’re seeing really good results,” she said.
If you would like to know what a school day with frequent recess would look like, or would like more information, there are some resources to help.
- Recess: Its Role in Education and Development, by Anthony D. Pellegrini, emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota.
- Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies For Joyful Classrooms, by Timothy D. Walker.
- IPA (International Play Association) is an interdisciplinary non-governmental organization, providing an international forum and advocacy for the promotion of play opportunities. The USA chapter is called the American Association of a Child’s Right to Play.
- Playworks is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving playtime, and, in the process, children’s overall well being. They help teach outdoor games and appropriate behavior during recess.
- LiiNK Project “creates the learning platform for rigor and achievement in the classroom” and trains schools how to incorporate more play and recess into the school day, along with character education.
- The US Play Coalition is holding its 2018 Conference; ‘The Many Faces of Play” on April 8-11 at Clemson University in Texas.
- NAAEE.org, the North American Association for Environmental Education, supports professional development for environmental education.
- ASCD.org (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) has a variety of resources for teachers. Its ASCD EMPOWER18 conference will be March 24-26 in Boston, Mass.