The Variability of Recess Periods in the United States

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The term recess refers to a scheduled break during the school day allowing children to participate in unstructured, free play (Pellegrini & Bohn, 2005; National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, NAECS-SDE (2001; Jarrett, Maxwell, Dickerson, Hoge, Davies, & Yetley, 1998; Pellegrini & Bjorklund, 1997; Pellegrini & Smith, 1993). Recess is an important aspect of the school day in countries all over the world, not just the United States. In the British schools, students receive a recess break on three separate occasions. Students are given a fifteen-minute break in the morning and afternoon, as well as an eighty- to ninety-minute break at lunchtime (Pellegrini & Bohn, 2005; Jarrett, et al., 1998; Pellegrini & Smith, 1993). In Japanese schools, students are given ten- to twenty-minute breaks after every forty-five minute instructional period (Jarrett, et al., 1998). In Taiwan, students are provided with multiple breaks during the school day and are allotted a five-minute transition time between instruction. In the United States there are no such guidelines for frequency and duration of recess (Ramstetter, Murray, & Garner, 2010; Barros, Silver, & Stein, 2009; Pellegrini & Bohn, 2005; NAECS-SDE, 2001; Pellegrini & Smith, 1993). The amount of time students are given for recess varies between regions, states, districts, and individual schools.

The variability in recess periods in the United States has become more important since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2001). NCLB holds schools accountable for the achievement of the students it serves. In response to the additional academic demands, many schools have chosen to cut back or eliminate recess all together, and increase i...

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... Educational Research, 63(1), 51-67.

Pellegrini, A. D., & Bjorklund, D. F. (1997). The role of recess in children's cognitive performance. Educational Psychologist, 32(1), 35-40.

Ramstetter, C. L., Murray, R., & Garner, A. S. (2010). The crucial role of recess in schools. The Journal of School Health, 80(11), 517-526.

Ridgway, A., Northup, J., Pellegrin, A., LaRue, R., & Hightsoe, A. (2003). Effects of recess on the classroom behavior of children with and without attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(3), 253-268.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2007). Recess Rules: Why the Undervalued Playtime May Be America’s Best Investment for Healthy Kids and Healthy Schools Report. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Available at: Accessed on 14 February 2011.
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