When a child misbehaves in your classroom, is your first response to have him lose recess time? In 2006 a study found that 81.4 percent of schools allowed this as a punishment. Yet in a time when kids are suffering from greater attention problems and poor social skills (not to mention problems with childhood obesity on the rise), taking away recess and the chance to run around simply is not the right option.
Put the Child to Work
Sometimes kids act out because they have pent-up energy or are bored with the classroom instruction. Cutting recess makes these problems worse. So, instead of cutting out the part of the day they really need, give the children a job to do as a disciplinary action.
This can be something simple, like taking a document to the office, or something a bit more involved, like vacuuming the carpet or cleaning the board. Try to find a time, outside of that vital recess period, that the child can perform the job.
Reward Positive Behavior
Sometimes rewarding positive behavior is just as effective as punishing negative behavior. When students see their classmates earning a coveted reward, they will work harder to earn it as well.
Consider a system where your students can earn a sticker on a chart for each day without behavior issues. When they achieve a set number of stickers, they receive a reward. Rewards can be simple things, like:
- Using the teacher’s desk for the day
- Switching desks with a friend
- Picking their favorite weekly job
- Free time on the computer
- Lunch with the teacher
- Choosing a toy from a reward bin
You can create a list that is specific to your classroom and your students. The key is to be consistent in helping children attain a prize, and the positive rewards will help curtail negative behavior.
Involve the Parents
Sometimes, even in spite of your positive reinforcement techniques, you need to impose a negative consequence when children misbehave. For those instances, consider a timeout from a coveted activity that is not recess, like music class or free reading time at the end of the day. The timeout should be short, but long enough to get the child’s attention.
Then, if the behavior does not improve, it’s time to bring in the parents. In many instances, parental involvement is more effective than taking away recess time. A simple note home can bring much better results than days of missed recesses. Having a child who was caught using foul language repeat those words to his mom over the phone may do more good than hours of social isolation.
Make the Punishment Fit the Crime
Did you catch a child coloring on the desk? Have him stay after school to clean all of the desks! One school in Alexandria, Virginia caught some students spray-painting the blacktop. They were required to clean up the mess, and the children had to earn the money to resurface the damaged areas. While you will have to determine how this type of punishment would work in your classroom, punishments that are directly related to the bad behavior can be quite effective.
Group Rewards and Consequences
Divide the class into groups based on seating arrangements. Each group can earn points for good behavior and lose points for bad behavior. The group at the end of the week with the most points gets a reward, such as extra recess time or lunch with the teacher. The peer pressure that comes from losing points will help curtail bad behavior without sacrificing recess time.
There’s no denying that today’s students need more discipline than ever before, but there’s also something to be said for keeping recess in the school day. With these tips, you can do both!
About the author:
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. (srpplayground.com) in Carrollton, GA. The company designs play structures for all age levels. They have a variety of structures and components, such as slides and tunnels, to fit your school’s outdoor area.