Recess Dilemma

15 Mar

Hope everything is well Section 20! I am having a blast at my school and the kids are great, but I do have a bit of a dilemma that I would love your imput on.

As you know if you have read my blogs or talked to me in class, I am doing a grade five unit on treaties in social studies for my three-week block. For one of my first lessons, the activity was to make our own classroom treaty. The students together as a class had to come up with three rules they would have to follow for the remainder of the unit. They thought of great ones that involve respecting others and working together in class. The other part of the treaty was to think of a reward and a consequence to go along with the rules. They all agreed on having a classroom pizza party if they followed the rules for the next three weeks. Then came the consequences. There was a variety of suggestions but what they settled on was taking away recess minutes when they did not follow the rules.


Photo Credit: gunnisal via Compfight cc

Now I know what you are going to say. “How dare you take away those children’s recess minutes! They NEED those!” I totally agree; there are students in our class that cannot concentrate without those fifteen minutes of fresh air and play. But I wanted to make this treaty as a class with everyone in agreement, and this is what they agreed on.  Was I supposed to tell them their decision was wrong? I just hoped they wouldn’t misbehave so that I wouldn’t have to use it.

So the next day they as a class were not being respectful. I told them that as stated in the treaty, they owed me one minute of their recess. They all complained but agreed it was fair because of our classroom agreement. They sat silently for the one minute and then ran outside to enjoy their fourteen remaining minutes of recess. I felt terrible, but the next day there was a big improvement on the respect scale. Was it really that bad that I took away one minute of recess since we decided on it as a class? Let me know your opinions and what I could do differently next time.

5 Responses to “Recess Dilemma”

  1. jillianengele March 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Brenna, this sounds like a great unit and I love the idea of creating a classroom treaty! This sounds like a tricky situation and I would feel the same way as you if I were in your shoes. We are always taught to give our students a say but how far do we go? If we do not agree with something our students say, how do we appropriately change or alter it? In my elementary schooling if we were “bad” we were always disciplined by missing recess. It is not always easy to change the way that we were taught. I think it was great that you did not completely take away their recess but only a couple of minutes. This demonstrates that they will lose some of their recess but they are still able to go outside and be active for the remaining minutes. I think that what you did was perfectly okay and you handled it well! Thanks for the post and good luck with the rest of your three-week block!

  2. brooke plant March 18, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    How can you tell that these students are used to having recess taken away if they misbehave? I bet if any of our classes were asked to think of a consequence for misbehaviour that they would say the same thing. They think this is an appropriate consequence because they have been having this as a consequence throughout their years of schooling. I think you did the right thing because you are showing the students that their suggestions and ideas are valued. I think if you didn’t take what they have to say into consideration, it kind of defeats the purpose of asking them for their input in the first place!

  3. Brian Lewis (@gymovers) March 20, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi team. Interesting situation for sure. I am glad you recognize that taking away recess is not the right answer, but it does seem to work in the short term doesn’t it? That is the problem.

    Like Brooke mentioned, they are see this as a consequence because it is something they are accustom to. Maybe you could revisit the consequences and explain to the class why you do not see missing recess as a way of dealing with things! It could send a powerful message to the class as well as the teacher. I would have a discussion on the importance of activity and recess and explain that their choice is noble but not one we will explore.

    I honestly thought your post was going another direction. Rewarding students with food is another big topic these days! Should we be providing food as a reward. Something to think about. Trust me Brenna, I am not saying anything you have done is wrong. Far from it. It is an experience and you seem to have engaged the students. Great discussions for sure.

    • Brenna Moser March 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

      Yes Brian, I know that you are disappointed that I took away a minute of recess and then rewarded them with fatty food! I know that this is not the ideal reward and consequence, but having a democratic classroom where the students participate in the rule making is important to me. If they make the rules, they are more likely to follow them. I was wondering for next time if you would have some suggestions of what I could use for a reward/consequence system otherwise? The students are kept in for recess a lot which I do not think is fair, but yet the teachers see no other choice for the most part. Students cannot stay after school to complete work as most are farm kids and if they miss their bus they have no other way home. Our co-op has another reward/consequence system where the students get a puzzle piece when they are following rules and one taken away when they are not, but the reward is still the same: a classroom party complete with treats. I would have loved for the reward to be something like a games period or extra phys.ed. but my teacher is having enough trouble fitting my lessons and my partners lessons into her schedule because of assemblies and days off. I just feel like I was stuck and didn’t know what else to do while the whole while an image of you shaking your head in disappointment was haunting me haha.

  4. jennavertefeuille March 21, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    B Moser, I agree with you that for the purpose of the lesson you had to follow thru with the consequences. Recess is a big part of these students lives and it is benefical for both staff and students and with the temperatures as cold as they have been I have seen lately how neccassary it is for my students. What is something you could have done differently in that situation?


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