Alternatives to taking away recess - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 25 Old 03-02-2010, 09:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Last semester my son's teacher was taking away recess for him messing around and not focusing in class. I let her know that I thought taking away recess contributed to the problem more than it solved. She said she would try to avoid taking away recess but didn't make any promises. He hasn't told me that he's been kept in since (of course it got really cold and we had a long stretch when it was too cold to go out for recess). Well today his whole class, except two kids, lost 4 minutes of recess time for talking in line.

So it wasn't the whole recess. However, I just don't think taking away recess helps anything. I really feel they need that social and physical outlet. I just think it makes it harder to give the teacher the behavior they want.

But when I email her to complainn about the lost recess time (If I decide to do so) I want to be constructive. When I mentioned to my husband how I just don't find taking away recess time to be appropriate. His question was "What else can they take away?" "What other consequences can they do instead?"

So what do you consider appropriate consequences for undesirable classroom behaviors?

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#2 of 25 Old 03-02-2010, 10:37 PM
 
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I know some teachers that made kids walk the line. They would have to walk around the basketball court or on another line. This gives them an energy outlet, but without the friends.

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#3 of 25 Old 03-02-2010, 10:43 PM
 
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Sort of like "you took away my time by talking, now I'll take away your talking time"?
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#4 of 25 Old 03-02-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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Sort of like "you took away my time by talking, now I'll take away your talking time"?
Pretty much. The reasoning was "If you take away my lesson time, I take it back during fun time". The more "hardcore" teachers would be out there reteaching the kid the lesson. If they didn't want to listen and learn during class they could do it during recess.

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#5 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 12:16 AM
 
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I am completely on the side of not taking away recess. My feeling is that in elementary school, especially early elementary, play is still the "work" of young children. It's essential, and to deny the need that children have for free, unstructured, play during the day is to my mind, a misunderstnding of the developmental needs of young children. I truly do not understand how taking away the physical break of recess creates a child who is able to focus and spend more time sitting and learning. I think it sets the child up for defeat.

Alternatives? I'm not sure. Does it need to be punishment, or experienced as a deprivation to be effective? I would love to know if there are ideas around more positive reinforcement of behavior, or if a consequnce is needed, could it be directed toward making a positive contribution in the school or classroom community? I'm not sure what this would look like-have to think a bit more.
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#6 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 12:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Does it need to be punishment, or experienced as a deprivation to be effective?
Personally, I think it's a problem that it made it to having to have threats and consequences. I think that this class would benefit from better classroom management in general. I also do feel that there could be more positive reinforcements in place in the classroom.

But, I'm also trying to remember that there is obviously a mentality that there needs to be a punishment and consequence or there wouldn't have been one (or issues with it in the past). So I am trying to work within the existing mind-frame when I broach alternatives. If that makes sense.

I know that 4 minutes of recess doesn't seem like a big deal to many. But it has been whole recesses in the past (not for the whole class but for individual kids). Plus it has been so insanely cold here. I don't think they had outside recess in a month before the last couple of days. It seems the height of cruelty to deny the kids recess time now that it is actually warm enough to let them go outside.

He's in second grade if that matters in anyone's suggestions.

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#7 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 12:28 PM
 
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This is a tough one...my DD is now in 2nd grade and the first time it happened in K, I was pretty upset. But, it was effective for her. She's spent a ton of time chit chatting during a self-directed work time and hadn't gotten her work done. The teacher didn't keep kids in just for not finishing (if they'd worked hard and didn't get it done they didn't have to stay in), but she did use it occasionally. I don't think her 1st grade teacher ever used it and only recently has her 2nd grade teacher used taking away recess as a form of punishment (it was also for not staying on task during a self-directed time).

All three of these teachers had amazing classroom management skills and taking away recess was used only sparingly, but I still think it has problems. In their defense though I'm not sure what the alternative is...
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#8 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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My cousin's son had attention issues when he was in elementary and his teachers would take away recess. We did some research and found studies that said kids are way more focused for up to 3 hours after students have physical activity in the outdoors. So by taking away recess, the teacher is defeating her own objective. (This kid would lose recess for the entire week on Monday b/c of how the system worked, so it was really a problem). My cousin did not seek out a DX of ADD for her son, but she told the teacher that if the constant loss of recess didn't stop, she would get the DX and a 504 plan that would prevent the loss of recess. Pretty easy to justify with the info we had found. My cousin even asked if the teacher would give extra homework instead. She refused because, "he finishes his work so quickly." Okaaayyyy. Anyway, they never really resolved it to my cousin's satisfaction, but she made sure her son didn't have the same teacher again.
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#9 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 04:03 PM
 
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Our district's wellness policy prohibits using a loss of recess as a discipline method.

Teachers, as a rule, appear to ignore the district's wellness policy.

However, having read our district's policy, it appears as though having such a policy is part of a federal mandate, so it's possible that your district already has such a policy on the books.

My DD's class teacher uses a variety of methods to stop behaviors before they start with various routines to refocus the class's attention (like everyone in the class responds with clapping sequences from the teacher, bringing attention back to the class).
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#10 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 04:12 PM
 
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I totally agree that its counter-productive.

I liked a PP suggestion of walking the line... or a limited recess. So, you can do xyz, but you've lost use of the jungle gym or whatever.

I actually found a few links with ideas.

http://www.peacefulplaygrounds.com/recess-alt.htm

http://www.proteacher.net/discussion...d.php?t=188808

http://www.cspinet.org/nutritionpoli...ve_rewards.pdf

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#11 of 25 Old 03-03-2010, 04:50 PM
 
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when I did preschool, we took away certain areas for free play if they weren't cleaned up, as a last resort.

So I suppose you could do that with recess, limit what they get to do rather than the amt. of time outside. Plus then if kids stay in somebody has to supervise them which I think would be a pain to schedule.

like the walk the line thing. Or loss of a favorite area but not the entire recess and energy-expenditure.

I would think with all the childhood obesity talk and lack of exercise talk they would want to NOT take away a major source of exercise and fun.

Or how about loss of another favored 'free-time' activity? like in the schools here, they have a computer lab time where they basically play games. Take away something like that or limit its time...MOST kids I know are motivated by that too. (my son would probably be more devastated by the loss of 10 minutes of computer time than by recess...)

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#12 of 25 Old 03-04-2010, 01:13 AM
 
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I too would prefer that teachers focus less on punishments, but it does seem to be pervasive and with 20+ kids and a tight time frame, I understand where they're coming from.

I guess I would ask what the main problem is: Is it that he's not getting his work done, or is he disrupting/disturbing others? If it's that he's not getting his work done, I would think that assigning him the work to take home would make more sense than taking away recess. If he's disturbing others, then maybe moving his desk or having him sit somewhere a little out of the main action is an option?
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#13 of 25 Old 03-04-2010, 01:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I too would prefer that teachers focus less on punishments, but it does seem to be pervasive and with 20+ kids and a tight time frame, I understand where they're coming from.

I guess I would ask what the main problem is: Is it that he's not getting his work done, or is he disrupting/disturbing others? If it's that he's not getting his work done, I would think that assigning him the work to take home would make more sense than taking away recess. If he's disturbing others, then maybe moving his desk or having him sit somewhere a little out of the main action is an option?
Oh, you'll love this. When I asked those types of questions the response I got was "A lot of it probably stems from age. He is considerably younger than the class and some activities require more time on task." Since I don't own a time machine I don't consider that response real helpful. But that is an entirely different discussion about a more complex issue.

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#14 of 25 Old 03-04-2010, 05:27 PM
 
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Ah, the time-honored "he's skipped a grade, that's where all the problems come from" attitude. I hope she can explain how missing recess will make him grow up faster, because I sure couldn't.

I think the current policy at our schools (not yet applicable) is that whatever time you have lost in class, you have to make up in a written assignment at home- as a "consequence" as opposed to a punishment, of course. Either on the topic he was supposed to be working on, or the topic she was talking about when he wasn't listening, so it could be a mini-essay on why a certain disciplinary policy makes sense.

I'd probably emphasise the argument why it's self-defeating and also unhealthy not to let them have exercise.

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#15 of 25 Old 03-07-2010, 12:05 PM
 
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Teachers taking away recess as a punishment is a pet peeve for my son's teacher. She hates seeing other people do that. I spend a lot of time volunteering in her classroom and here are some of the things I notice.

The school policy for poor behavior (like talking when shouldn't, not following directions, disrupting other student's work):
1st time give verbal warning
2nd time sit on the take a break chair until child feels they are back in control of behavior
3rd time sit on take a break chair in adjoining classroom or visit with the school's behavior specialist (very awesome guy who totally understands excess energy)
4th time meet with behavior specialist
5th time note home

She is also very proactive about behavior, repeats expectation clearly and simply throughout the day. She uses quiet methods to gain attention like when she turns off the lights all the kids put their hands on their heads and look at her or she does clapping patterns. For walking in the hall she has different methods including a reminder when they start out, playing a game where she says she is going to turn around unexpectedly and see if anyone is goofing around and do they think they are up for the challenge, she has set stopping points along the hall route where they regroup and check their own behavior. If a child just can't self-manage in the line, then they walk with her. Also certain kids aren't allowed to walk near each other in line because they make bad choices with that particular student.

The only time you lose recess time in DS's class is if you break a rule during recess, then you sit against the wall outside for 5 minutes (longer if a serious safety issue)

Losing recess because of goofing around in class is not a logical consequence. What does one have to do with another? Now when my DS goofed around during a math lesson, the teacher made him take a break and then he had to complete his math lesson with her later while the other students played a fun math game together. That was a logical consequence! Your son's teacher is taking "the easy way out" in my opinion.

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#16 of 25 Old 03-07-2010, 03:41 PM
 
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OT, but what does your school consider too cold to let the kids go out to recess? Our school have never cancelled school for that reason, only for major rain or snow storms.

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#17 of 25 Old 03-07-2010, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OT, but what does your school consider too cold to let the kids go out to recess? Our school have never cancelled school for that reason, only for major rain or snow storms.
They consider anything below 0 too cold for recess. Unfortunatelly that's been pretty frequent around here this winter. So pretty much all of January and Febuary. As even days it gets above 0 it doesn't happen until afternoon.

Our kids had two days of school cancelled for -40 temps. But otherwise they go to school in snow and rain.

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#18 of 25 Old 03-09-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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OT, but what does your school consider too cold to let the kids go out to recess? Our school have never cancelled school for that reason, only for major rain or snow storms.
Our school's policy is over 20F for outdoor recess. The teacher seems to keep them in for under 30F. And yesterday they had indoor recess because it was too muddy.
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#19 of 25 Old 03-12-2010, 09:40 PM
 
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I'm a teacher and although I don't have a position now where it makes any sense for me to take away recess, I used to. And I did take away part of recess sometimes for behavior issues, as a last resort. A lot of times teachers feel like their hands are tied. We don't want kids to miss out on physical activity. We know perfectly well how much they need it. We don't like sending incomplete work home because that leads to an attitude that homework is punishment, whether that is the intention or not. And it is not uncommon for the kids that are least focused in class to also struggle with homework, so then you are setting them up to mess up twice. I appreciated straighthaircurly's description of her school policy. What a luxury to have a behavior specialist! I wish my school had a person to send disruptive students to. Our principal is only half-time (we are a tiny school) and during the hours I'm teaching she is usually not available. I've used behavior charts to target specific behaviors for specific kids. I've used individual and whole-class incentives. I've sent kids out into the hall to keep them from disrupting class any further. I've spent huge amounts of my emotional energy developing meaningful relationships with my students so that they feel safe and trusted enough to value class time as much as I do. But there have been times when I've felt, for lots of different reasons, that I had no better option than to take 5 minutes off a kid's recess. I hate it too. I started reading this thread looking for new ideas I might be able to use myself. Unfortunately, in the reality of my classroom (and most others I've seen), there wasn't much that I could really use.
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#20 of 25 Old 03-13-2010, 12:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone for your input and suggestions.

I think I've pretty much concluded that my problem isn't entirely the missed recesses (he missed recess again yesterday) it is more about his teachers general poor classroom management which lacks consistency, adequate positive reinforcement, poor communication with students, and a lack of understanding about who her students are as individuals, etc.

I have address some of my concerns in an email yesterday responding to some issues she let me know about with my son. But for the most part I'm just holding on for the remaining two months of school and planning a discussion with the principle about finding a better classroom fit for next year.

ecoteat - I think it's great that you are looking for other options to skipping recess and I find it very admirable that you mention that getting to know the students as individuals is part of your classroom management tools. I think that is a step my son's teacher has skipped.

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#21 of 25 Old 03-13-2010, 09:13 PM
 
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DD (grade four) got into some trouble recently and I went in to see the principal. I was going to yank her for the entire next week. She loves school so it would actually be a punishment.
The asst principal actually came up with switching her lunch and recess. This way she would have them with the 3rd grade (where she has friends anyway and I told them that so they said she could sit at a seperate table and have outside recess somewhere else)
Could that be an option? There is no missed class for this (DDs personal situation) because 3rd and 4th grade have lunch/recess opposite eachother.

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#22 of 25 Old 03-14-2010, 12:34 PM
 
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We don't like sending incomplete work home because that leads to an attitude that homework is punishment, whether that is the intention or not. And it is not uncommon for the kids that are least focused in class to also struggle with homework, so then you are setting them up to mess up twice.
I'm a teacher, too, (first grade) and this is such a tough thing. Our school does not let kids go outside during the winter (and frankly, it's pretty darn cold here), and I know that they simply NEEEEED that exercise! I try to deal with this by using Brain Gym (letting the kids get up and stretch/move/burn energy in between activities). When walking in line, if a student is having a hard time being quiet I ask if they need help. If they continue talking it's because they need help: I either move them in line, or I have them walk next to me. For behavior like this, I understand that they're so little and wiggly, and they need help.

However, I also think it's really really important to teach kids to take pride in their work and understand responsibility. I never punish a student for simply trying their best and not finishing, but when a student decides not to do a job (we have independent responsibilities at centers), I feel it's important to have them make up the work. This usually happens when a child is socializing rather than working. in this case, I feel like they already got their free time, and so they need to make up the work part while the class is having "free choice" activities at the end of the day. I think this is a bit of a life lesson: if you don't do your work, it will be waiting for you later. I also use free choice time to have kids fix up work that I think they rushed through. It usually doesn't take long and then they can go play. Sometimes I walk around and pull a student aside during free choice time to talk with them about a concept they struggled with during the day, but it is positive teacher/student time, not a punishment. I agree that students need that active, free time to explore, and I try to incorporate it throughout my day. But first graders tend to rush and not necessarily do their best unless you let them know that you actually believe in and care about hte work you give them. It's an important lesson we are entrusted to give, and I try to do it in a way that doesn't make it seem like a punishment, but more like a natural consequence. I even have kids come up to me who tried and didn't finish, and they say "can I finish this at free choice time?" It can be such a downward spiral if you don't send them the message that accuracy is important, and unfortunately it's not always possible to count on kids having the support at home to fix or finish work at home. I know there is a balance in there, and I try daily to find it. Part of it is making sure that the work is meaningful and enjoyable to start with. Please, if there are any other suggestions I know that teachers would love them!

I try very very hard to have my classroom management based on natural consequences for behavior (knock over someone's blocks: talk to them and apologize and help clean it up). It just seems to me that the natural consequence for talking with friends when you have a job to do is that your job will still be waiting for you later on.

ps - I just want to say that the obvious and most desirable situation is that the teacher notices and redirects the student right in the moment. However, I'm talking about when a students persists and persists so that they take away learning time from the students that a teacher is focusing on in a small group AND don't finish their work. Ok....I'll stop now.

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#23 of 25 Old 03-16-2010, 12:57 AM
 
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I just found this: http://www.playworksusa.org/. I haven't read any of it yet, but it looks interesting.
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#24 of 25 Old 03-16-2010, 05:20 PM
 
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When you talk to your principal, you might look at Positive Behavior Interventions & Support as a system for the school: http://www.pbis.org/

It's what our school uses, and it's really effective. It focuses on teaching required skills (rather than just punishing when the kids don't behave), and it's about preventing discipline problems rather than reacting to them. The kids at our school are incredibly well behaved, yet they're not 'robots' or afraid. (What's more it's a high poverty school, so not all the kids come in with the social skills that kids in more affluent areas have.)

When you talk to the teacher, I would ask one question "How does keeping him in from recess teach him the skill that you're trying to work on?" (She won't be able to answer this -- she'll say something like "it'll teach him he shouldn't do..." To which you can say "but how is he going to learn what he should do?")

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#25 of 25 Old 03-16-2010, 08:02 PM
 
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When you talk to the teacher, I would ask one question "How does keeping him in from recess teach him the skill that you're trying to work on?" (She won't be able to answer this -- she'll say something like "it'll teach him he shouldn't do..." To which you can say "but how is he going to learn what he should do?")
wait a minute...that is NOT the answer I would give. My classroom management is based on teaching these life skills, and motivating students based on positive rewards for behavior. However, there are times when students test teachers, just they they do parents. Like I mentioned above, the message I try to send to students is that the work I assign is meaningful (which I truly tailor it to be) and that, in life, if you get distracted by friends (which happens to everybody) and are having a hard time staying focused (which happens to everybody sometimes) that your work will still be there for you later on. If I didn't hold them accountable, it would send the message that the work is a time filler and doesn't really matter. I really don't want to send that message! I want the students to be working on meaningful jobs and knowing that I care about their work! And that in itself is usually preventative if misbehaving. I agree: I don't take kids away from the running around recess time because they need to get that energy out. In the winter months, I incorporate movement into my teaching.

However, I think it's important to teach a student accountability and focus. If a parent asked me what I'm try to teach by having a student finish their work at the end of the day (free choice time), I would say that I'm teaching the student that when we procrastinate our work doesn't go away. I think this is an important life lesson. No matter how exciting and interesting the work is, sometimes students will choose to talk instead of work to their best potential. I'd be very interested in hearing from someone with experience to the contrary, because it would help my teaching!

One last thought, when I see a student off task a lot, I do analyze the situation to see if I need to help the student with the task, or if the task is appropriate. I agree there is a definite balance. But parents, don't you see your kids testing you, too? They do this with teachers, too, and they like to see limits given in a caring, respectful way. This has been my experience in helping to create a healthy learning environment.

ps - I just found this forum, and I really enjoy the parental perspective! I hope these conversations help increase understanding from both ends.

pps - thanks for the links! seriously, I appreciate input, and I am familiar with both of the sources/ideas. Movement is so important! Just today we took a walk outside to observe our playground and grounds so we can make a map to culminate our geography unit.

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