Saturday, January 22

You will NOT Lose Recess Here






My students are hard workers! We have stamina and momentum. I know this to be true because we discuss it daily. Along with curriculum goals, I stress the importance of being aware of how we learn – Metacognition! We think about thinking.

When my students first met me, they went through quite an adjustment period. They were a stressful group and they were always anxious about “finishing.” All of their focus and energy was directed to this goal of finishing. I felt as though there was a beast looming over them waiting to pounce. It was scary.



It took me months to re-program their attention to learning and away from the scary finishing monster. I can’t even describe their faces when I told them I don’t keep kids in for recess. They were shocked. They had been taught that if they didn’t finish all of their work, they would lose their recess!




We post a “to do” list on the board each day. They know that this is a guide and we view it as ambitious goals. We call the list “ambitious” because we know that
we won’t always finish items. After my mini lessons, each student decides the order of the work they will do. Some students like to do the most challenging tasks first, while others like the feeling of accomplishing the easier tasks first. They know the order is a personal choice and I’m happy if they are learning.


I came up with this procedure because I’m a list maker. If I have a lot of work to do, I want to do what I want to do, in the order I want to do it. My list and my mood determine the order. It is never the same. Why not give this power to kids?

What I have found is that kids thrive when given choices! They need to feel in control of their learning. For my students with attention issues, this has been a revelation for them. They flourish in an environment where they can break their assignments into manageable chunks. As they work, they can turn in assignments, gather things for the next, take a break, ask me questions… they can MOVE!

Could you imagine being told you can’t get up for hours until you finished your list of things to do? I couldn’t do it.

Now, you may wonder if there are students who take advantage of this freedom and do little work at all. It very rarely happens. The students have learned the value of self-monitoring. At times it may appear as if a student isn’t working; maybe they’re thinking, pausing, resting, or clearing their minds. This is encouraged. (Don’t we all need this?)

While they are working independently, I’m working with students one-on-one or in small groups. They know if they need me, and I’m busy, they can go onto something else or ask a friend. Most importantly, when I work with them and they show me their work, if I feel they have mastered the concept, I declare it finished. This was hard for some overachievers to embrace. I don’t like tedious, busy work.

Another benefit is for some students who may struggle in a particular area, they can work more slowly without worrying about catching up or falling behind. They know that I value the process, not how many problems they finished.

They trust me. They know I’m fair. When I look up from my table and see my students, some are working at their seats, some are lying on the floor, and some are under tables. They are learning.

I’d like to think that I’m preparing them for the future when they will have “to do” lists in their adult lives and they will rely on the foundation of good work habits they learned.

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