Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recess: a Right or a Privilege?

Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Often recess is taken away for misdeeds in school.  Consider the reasons:  forgotten homework, incomplete work, distracting behaviors.  More than likely, these are related to specific issues a child might be struggling with:  organization,  slow processing, hyperactivity.  Why then are we limiting the activity that would likely help these students?  We know that movement is beneficial for successful performance in school.  With the rise of childhood obesity and diabetes, why take this away?   Recess is golden!

Let's consider sensory patterns of our kids and how recess may be a good vehicle for providing input.  Winnie Dunn, author of Living Sensationally, looks at ways that we respond to sensory input in everyday life and groups these into 4 categories:
  • Seekers (those who can't get enough) 
  • Bystanders (those who miss events going on around them)
  • Avoiders (those who try to get away or manage their surroundings)
  • Sensors (those who detect everything, nothing gets by them)
Of course, human beings are complex and don't fit neatly into these categories.  These patterns do help our understanding of how sensations in our lives support or hinder our participation, however.  In her book, Winnie describes these sensory patterns and how they affect choices we make in life. There is a Sensory Patterns Questionnaire in the beginning to help you understand your own unique sensory pattern.

Students do not have to earn the right to participate in school tasks by coming to the table with everything in order.  As professionals, we are responsible for making participation happen immediately.  Recess is such a rich tool to provide kids with what they need no matter what sensory pattern they have.  Here's how you can use recess to address individual sensory needs and styles:
  • Seekers (provide more opportunities):  This is a no brainer.  These kids need to run, climb and move to their hearts content.  Typically, they make good use of their recess time to prepare their bodies for learning.  Think twice before you make recess a consequence.
  • Bystanders (provide more intensity):  There is plenty out on the playground to help these folk.  Look at more intense experiences (tire swing, high slide, climbing ropes).  Provide new games or play activities.  Keep the novelty going.  Encourage different tag games, for example.
  • Avoiders (make less input available):  Help them to find those spaces that limit the intensity of input while providing quieter play arenas.  Many structures have spaces underneath to gather and play.  Develop play routines to insure participation.
  • Sensors (provide more structured input):  Think about how paying attention to everything might affect play.  Soccer is sometimes played on our large field or in a more confined space (tennis court).  The tennis court option provides a space with boundaries, limiting distractions.  Pair a child up with another person to remind them what game they are playing.
Okay, now let's move!

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