Let's Talk Recess!

This morning I read this excellent article Recess Is Not A Privilege, Stop Taking It Away and it really got me thinking! So, instead of taking away recess as a punishment, what can we do? Often we think this is the only consequence that can influence kids to listen or act they way we want them to. But it doesn't work!! Sitting out at recess will not get the work done that they have been dragging their heels on in class, it won't stop the disruptive behaviors and it won't bring in the forgotten homework. But I still see this practice happening in my school, heck I even stoop to it when I get super exasperated with a kid from time to time.  So what should or can we do INSTEAD?? 

Here's what we can be doing, what is really the most effective and long term ways to deal with students. Mostly these are what we know to be "best practices" but it helps to have reminders going into a new school year!
You know this! But consistency is so important! Make sure your school has a solid behavior plan in place and stick with it. We are a PBIS school, the buy-in hasn't been easy but it is working. The one part of PBIS that I love is the refocus. If you are not familiar with refocus, it is similar to a time-out. The student leaves to reflect on his/her behavior then comes back when he or she is ready to reenter the room and return to work. It works really well. We also have a great system of rewarding kids and recognizing kids doing a great job in every area of our school. In other words, catch them doing good!
So many kids act out to get attention. They are not getting what they need at home so they are going to demand it from you at school. Sometimes it just takes a few extra minutes to touch base with them in the morning to see how they are doing, how are they feeling, start off the day on a positive note. This article about school discipline had the best quote, "we spent a lot of time trying to diagnose children by talking to each other," D'Aran says. "Now we're talking to the child and really believing the child when they say what the problems are." Every year I have students who don't do their homework because they have to either watch little brothers or sisters, go to work with mom or dad or other problems that would break your heart! Could I get upset that they don't do their homework? Yes. Should they do their homework at recess? No, it's my job to help them. I usually give them time before class begins to try and get it done. 
If a student does break a school rule, the consequences should fit the rule that was broken. The only time I have students sit at recess is when kids are fighting or arguing on the playground. Sometimes a few minutes of sitting and cooling off is what everyone needs. At my school we don't have large scale fist fights that often, that would mean immediately going to the office. But my boys argue a lot about the games they play, ie kick ball and soccer! So I showed them a few YouTube videos on how to actually play those games correctly so that everyone would know all the rules! This helped the arguing a lot.
This last one is HUGE! If you are going to draw a line in the sand, you better be prepared not to cross it. Don't get caught in the control game. If you spend more time trying to control everyone and everything, you are not going to teach your students the self-control they need to be successful in school and in life! 

Last but not least, give your students some voice and some choice. If they need to stand to work, let them. They will get more work finished. After my mini-lesson, my class works on the floor, around the room on tables, at their desks where ever they can work well. giving students choice lets them take ownership in their work and their classroom. 

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