Often the students who would most benefit from physical activity are those who get the least opportunity during the school day. At schools where recess is withheld as a punishment, it is usually a student who has difficulty following directions, staying on task, or interacting appropriately with peers and staff who has recess restricted. These problems behaviors are typically not related to recess, yet recess is withheld.
The practice of withholding recess as punishment can be ineffective for many reasons. Research has shown that punishment is not effective in teaching new skills. To change a problem behavior, a replacement behavior must be taught in its place. Students must be taught what to do differently. If no replacement skills are taught, students will continue their current behavior resulting in the same problems. In addition to teaching student placement behaviors and the skills to respond differently in the challenging situation, classroom management practices should employ effective consequences. Effective consequences are immediate and relate to the problem behavior. Withholding recess is not an effective consequence. It typically is not immediate and it does not relate to the problem behavior. 60 Alternatives to Withholding Recess provides a variety of strategies to use instead.