Rethinking recess: Schools use playtime to boost students’ social skills


For most students and teachers, recess represents a break from learning.

But, for an increasing number of school leaders and educators, recess is becoming a teachable moment. Across the country, schools are using daily play time to engage students, increase their social-emotional competencies, and even battle bullying.

Mundo Verde Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., is so serious about the learning powers of recess that it has hired a recess coordinator, Amalie Malochee. “Nobody has a break at recess,” Malochee tells Education Week in a recent video report, “we’re all playing—the teachers, the students, the coaches.”

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Mundo Verde partners with Playworks, a national nonprofit group that uses play to hone students’ social-emotional development. The group’s main focus is to engage students who feel out of place on the playground. Through non-competitive play and the recruitment of junior coaches—student peers who help lead group activities—Playworks and Malochee aim to not only improve students’ physical health, but also improve their social skills and confidence.

As one Mundo Verde junior coach, fourth-grader Reagan Young, tells Education Week, “Before I joined Junior Coach, I was really shy and I wasn’t open. After Junior Coach, I was really confident, I was a great leader.”

Want more tips on engaging your students? Read 4 ways schools can build trust by listening.

As participating students grow more confident and socially adept, Playworks organizers say they also become better leaders. That confidence helps them identify problems on the playground and in school and empowers them to step in when fellow students feel left out or bullied.

The concept of recess is changing from a break period for teachers and students to a valuable opportunity to promote physical health, social-emotional wellbeing, and teamwork in school. For more on the Playworks program, watch the full Education Week video below:

Does your school use recess to help develop students’ social-emotional skills? Tell us about your approach in the comments.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

1 Comment on "Rethinking recess: Schools use playtime to boost students’ social skills"

  1. Richard Seitz | July 31, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Reply

    Train your elementary school teachers in the Pax Good Behavior Game and add short (15-60 seconds)physical activity periods during class. These physical breaks are part of the reason Pax enables pupils to develop their self-regulation and self-control circuits of the brain, leading to 90% reductions of class disruptions, an increase in time on task and educational time, and years later, decreases in drug abuse, smoking, suicide, special education, and a ton of other negative behaviors.
    to learn more about the science of PAX GBG can go to the National Library of Medicine to read more about the research.
    You can also watch a video of interviews of teachers and students to learn more. http://bit.ly/What-Is-PAX-Video-Intro

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