Sunday Snippet: The Serious Business of Play!
Sadly though, nothing could be further from the truth! Back in the day – despite a lack of research support – teachers understood the need for students (and adults, too!) to get up, stretch, breath in fresh air and get the body moving. They instinctively knew that attention spans wain and fidgeting increases the longer one remains immobile in a classroom desk. They understood precisely where the tipping point occured when instruction rapidly lost its effectiveness due to minimal physical activity. A midmorning and midafternoon break to run around outside, to play a quick round of kickball or foursquare, to climb up & down the monkey bars, or to simply hangout & socialize with friends did wonders for increasing the success rate of subsequent classroom instruction!
This by no means infers that today’s teachers lack this understanding. But they are bridled with the expectations that their students will perform well on the latest round of standardized tests and are pressured by their administrators to ensure their building and school district will have high composite scores to reassure their supporting taxpayers that their dollars are being well spent. Although there is little data to support a correlation between teacher effectiveness and test scores, many assume that low test scores are a direct result of poor instruction. So with their jobs on the line, it is no surprise that the emphasis has shifted to ‘teaching to the test’!
It does make one wonder if a correlation exists between the demise of recess and the rapid ascension of ADHD diagnoses amoung our students! Just sayin’!
Ok, so back to the importance of play! More and more research is concluding what many teachers have known for eons – recess is an important and effective element in helping students learn more successfully! Washington Post reporter, Valerie Strauss has written extensively on the importance of play in the lives and education of our children. She recently shared a post by Debbie Rhea (an associate dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth) stating that “making the case for why less class time — and more play time — will actually lead to a better education for kids, however counter-intuitive that may sound.”
In Strauss’s article Why young kids need less class time — and more play time — at school, she highlights several findings of Rhea’s research intervention entitled LiiNk Project (Let’s Inspire Innovation ‘N Kids):
- The children looked forward to each recess and demonstrated social growth and development through the change in peer interactions from pre to post assessments.
- Transition time from classroom to recess and back decreased from three to four minutes each way to less than one minute each way with the intervention schools.
- Children were more disciplined and focused in the classroom. Off-task behaviors like fidgeting decreased in the intervention schools consistently by 25 percent while the control school students maintained higher percentages of off-task behaviors from pre to post assessments.
- Intervention children improved by 30 percent on attentional focus while the control school children changed only slightly.
- Academic performance on reading and math significantly improved.
- Misbehavior during recess significantly decreased.
As has been said here before, schools could a learn a lot from camp, particularly with regards to the positive correlation between learning and playing. Camp programs, like those at WeHaKee Camp for Girls consistently help campers learn new skills, enhance their social skills, gain significant independence and empower children to try new things!
Thanks for reading today. Now step away from the screen and go out and play! Have a great week everyone!