Through observation and years of working in the Montessori environment I believe that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons. In other words kids need recess, and recess should not be taken away from children to punish them for misbehavior or as punishment for not completing or incorrectly completing with their work.
Because recess is such a vital part of students’ development, taking it away from children makes as much sense as taking away math, reading, or spelling. It does not help them to become better students or better people. So, why are so many schools still using this form of punishment?
Perhaps it’s because it seems like a simple solution to unwanted behavior. The problem is that punishment is often less effective in correcting behavior than other forms of discipline. In the case of recess, this punishment is less effective because children need recess in order to decompress, socialize, and “get the wiggles out” so they can focus and behave better in class. Another possible reason schools take away recess is that teachers are operating with limited time and options. Creative discipline can take time away from instruction and time away from other students.
So, how do teachers change or improve student behavior without taking away recess?
There are no simple solutions, but one key is the mutual support of teachers, administrators and parents. Administrators must work with teachers to come up with alternative forms of discipline and ways to improve student behavior.
Schools must also keep open the lines of communication with parents. When parents know what teachers expect and how their children might be falling short of these expectations, they can help by taking action at home. It’s unlikely that taking a child’s recess away will result in a positive change in behavior.