50 Minute Recess: An Experience in a K Classroom

Danielle Brown Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Games, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership

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As I sit in a professional development on Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Kinder, toggling between Pinterest & Facebook, I found something that made my heart soar. A proposed bill that I have seen become law or policy in other states. A bill focusing on the needs of students in a nonpartisan way, AZ HB 2082: The 50 Minute Daily Recess Bill. As I sat with my colleagues, all who were kindergarten teachers, I began to smile, then fidget, then unable to contain my excitement any longer, I began to pass my phone around for all to read!

I am sure Queen, We Are The Champions was playing during this exchange.

You see, I had spent the summer intentionally sharing & making comments on articles that showed how recess was done in other states. I had a conversation with my administrator at the beginning of the year, asking about additional recess, how to incorporate it in the school day, and proposing solutions for “instructional time”. (I believe recess CAN be instructional time, but that is another blog!  ) 

More recess was my mission!

I learned how Rhode Island made it a law that students in grades K-6th, have recess for 20 minutes a day, calling it a students RIGHT. I delved deeper into the Liink Project, in districts in Texas and Oklahoma, that focused on recess and character development. A sample schedule of an elementary school in Texas shows Kindergarten & 1st grade students enjoying recess up to 4 times a day, for a total of 60 minutes!

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It wasn’t enough for me to look on and think, “Well isn’t that nice!” I needed to experience what a 50 minute daily recess could mean for both my students and myself. Ever the advocate, I asked for support in trying to build in 50 minutes of recess in my day.

I was supported and this is what followed, these are snippets of conversations between students and direct Q & A.

This is like a brain break, like  GoNoodle, but I can run, swing, or slide!”- S

“You be Baby Ironman & I will be Baby Batman” -D “Yeah then we can morph & become adults!”-A (Student conversation as they prepared to plan & play a game.)

When asked why having more recess was important:

“Well you know I have lots of energy, so we can play I can my energies out! I think that’s a good idea for me!” – A

“My mom says I need fresh air & exercise! That’s what recess is!” -S

Though student interactions were important and informative my experience was equally meaningful.

I noticed more risk taking, students who weren’t confident on monkey bars, wanted to ensure that they tried and I SAW. Students who are often reserved in class, wanted to engage me in conversation, regarding the games they played and the rules the followed. I found myself focusing on student conversations in a different way, learning more about student interests, wonders & needs.

During the additional recess, I found myself more present.

As it stands I don’t see my kids during their one recess a day, as that is my lunch time. I miss the opportunity to connect with my students when they are the most open, being encouraged to be free, talk & take risks, an additional recess spent with my students allowed me to see that.

I believe that additional recess isn’t just about students, it can be about the educators too. 

How can you use an additional recess to engage students? How can this impact student relationships, and ultimately learning?


Danielle Brown

Sierra Vista, Arizona

My name is Danielle Brown, and I am a PROUD, National Board Certified (EC-GEN) public school Kindergarten teacher in Southeast Arizona. I will begin my seventh year teaching, with one year as the arts integration specialist and 6 years as a kindergarten teacher. I have a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona and am currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership.
I believe in Board Certification and I support teachers, as a Candidate Support Provider, in their work to achieve Board Certification. I am continuing my journey of teacher leadership from the classroom as a 2016 ASCD Influence Leader, focusing on engaging educators in policy, as well as working as a National Policy Teacher Fellow with Hope Street Group, as well as a new member on the Arizona Teacher Solutions® Team. I love connecting with other educators, staying solutions oriented and growing as a professional.
You can find me on Twitter @TeachDB17, reach out, connect and let's grow together.

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Comments 11

  1. Beth Maloney

    Ever the advocate, indeed, Danielle. You embody the life and work of a teacher/leader/advocate. I love my conversations with my students at recess but right now, they are too brief. Go HB2082 to fix that! I will be sharing this! And I hope you write that blog about recess as instructional time.

  2. Brian Smith

    Hey Danielle! Love this post. We currently have 2 recess times. One is about 10 minutes in the morning and one is 20 minutes in the afternoon. This is my first year with this set-up and I really like it. My struggle isn’t the 4 different recess times that the school in Texas has, it’s all the transitions that would occur. Do you have any ways that help the class make these transitions speedy? I also really want that blog about using recess as an instructional time. Keep up the great work friend! Kinder Love!

  3. Donnie Lee

    I love the conversations I get to have my kids on the play ground. You get to see their personalities and build that sense of community that you need for your classroom.

  4. Briana Gryzynger

    I too believe in the time for imaginative, free play (i.e. Recess). One where I don’t structure every single last minute of my first graders time with me. The games and activities they create and develop are so telling- it is truly important work- this thing called “play”.

  5. kbuffett

    I LOVE this post!! Recess is such an important part of elementary students’ school experience – it still boggles my mind that there are people who don’t feel the same way.

    The snippets you shared from conversations you have had with your students were especially salient. Recess is a time for students to collaborate, explore, and enjoy each others company outside of the traditional classroom. It’s an excellent way for children to relieve the stress they may feel inside of the classroom as well. As another commenter posted, recess gives educators the unique opportunity to build their classroom communities: it’s a win-win.

    Once again, great post! I am so glad that there are teachers like you out there who are so passionate about their students and their right to recess.

  6. Treva Jenkins

    Awesome Danielle. As a secondary teacher, I never knew just how important recess is for our kids. I also love that you brought up the importance of the teacher-student connection during recess. I love the idea of recess becoming a time where teachers can further connect with their students:) and continue to build those lasting bonds.

  7. Sarah Elizabeth

    My school has 60 minutes of recess and 10 minutes of walking after lunch for a total of 70 minutes for physical activities. I still notice that taking my kids out for extra recess is not only needed for a brain break, but also because it helps them to have time to interact with friends in a decompressed environment. Plus, they love knowing that I’m watching them!

  8. Mrs. W.

    So proud that our elementary school in Massachusetts has a 20 minute before school recess option (7:50-8:10) for those who can make it, we take another 20 minute mid-morning recess anywhere between 9:30 and 11, and then we take a 20 minute lunch recess BEFORE lunch, so we are nice and chill in the cafeteria. We also have Science Workshop outdoors often, as we have a place-based school that uses our grounds as a science lab. Happy kids, happy teachers!

  9. jones4532456

    Very interesting experience and i think for more better education we need entertainment also. This is the best option for us to inspire our child in education. I think it makes their brain so more brilliant and sharp.

  10. Lisa Moberg

    Yep, I had 2 ten-minute recesses and a 30-minute lunch recess up in Washington. My students all had great test scores. Go figure!!

  11. Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for this piece. Now that we are having online learning (Covid), the issue of recess is not an issue. It is a guaranteed time every day. In addition to extra screen breaks, asynchronous learning, and Specials (Art, PE, Music, Library, and Social Group). I am hoping that when full time in person school resumes (I think we are still a ways off from that), we will not need to debate the importance of “recess” for children.

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