A few years ago, Timothy Walker wrote an article for the The Atlantic about his
experiences teaching in Finland. One of the first things he noticed was a totally
different approach to recess there than in the United States. Instead of a reward that
the children earned, recess was an inherent and important part of the children’s
instruction. They also implemented recess and breaks much more frequently.
Finnish students received 10-15 minute breaks for every 40-45 minutes worth of
work. Walker found that the students were much more attentive had very few
behavior problems compared to his experience in the American classroom – as long
as he adhered to this schedule. However, when he tried a few of his “American-style”
lesson plans that lasted an hour to an hour and a half, students’ attention and
regulation broke down.
This is very consistent with the research behind strategies contained within PAX
GBG. Access to rewarding consequences provides students with a sort of “light at the
end of the tunnel.” When students know that recess or other fun is just around the
corner, they are much more capable of focusing on the task at hand and avoiding
problematic behavior. In fact, when students “lose” recess or access to rewarding
consequences, this often increases their impulsivity and behavior problems. Also,
for students who struggle academically, recess and other non-academic periods may
be the only opportunities they have to show their peers that they can excel too.
When these students lose recess, they lose the opportunity to show their peers that
they are good at stuff too. This can amplify conflict with teachers and other students.
While it may seem counterintuitive, classes that appear inattentive, unfocused, and
exhibiting behavior issues may just need a few more breaks and access to fun. PAX
GBG has a number of strategies for decreasing problematic behavior without taking
away recess. PAX GBG also increases access to rewarding consequences, and
thereby, increasing academic and behavioral outcomes for all students.