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Free Choice Outside Learning Time. By: The Alliance Recess Task Force. What is free choice outside learning time?. Free choice outside learning time (FCOLT) is a defined period during the day where children can participate with others or independently in activities of their choice. .

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Free Choice Outside Learning Time

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Free Choice Outside Learning Time

By: The Alliance Recess Task Force

What is free choice outside learning time?

  • Free choice outside learning time (FCOLT) is a defined period during the day where children can participate with others or independently in activities of their choice.

What is FCOLT? cont.

  • FCOLT provides a break in the day’s routine by providing a different environment for learning and social interaction. The brain needs periods of change, down time, to recycle chemicals crucial for long term memory formation.

What is FCOLT? Cont.

  • FCOLT is a rich opportunity for assessment of social development through informal observation (Jambor).

Why do Children Need FCOLT?

When children are given an opportunity to play together, they figure out ways to handle differences. Children are increasingly looking for an adult to settle disputes.Their sense of independence is being lost in the heavily structured world of childhood (Johnson).

Why do Children Need FCOLT? cont.

  • Can you imagine going to work everyday from 7:55-2:55 without a break from the heavily structured day? If adults have a daily need to take a break from prolonged confinement, then it is not difficult to understand the child having, at the very least, similar needs (Jambor).

Why FCOLT cont.

  • It is common for schools to restrict talking among children before class, during class, during lunch and when standing in line (Jambor).

What are the benefits of FCOLT?

  • FCOLT allows children to work off the tensions they have built up during the day and reduces the anxiety that can be caused by academic pressures (Kraft).

What are the benefits of FCOLT? Cont.

  • During FCOLT, activities are often exploratory. This type of experience stimulates a child’s cognitive development in several ways.

  • FCOLT:

    • Encourages creativity

    • Promotes problem-solving skills

    • Improves vocabulary


What are the benefits of FCOLT? Cont.

  • Children improve their social skills during FCOLT by:

    • Sharing

    • Cooperating

    • Communicating with teachers and children

    • Solving problems

    • Respecting playground rules

    • Resolving conflict

    • Self-discipline


What are the benefits of FCOLT? Cont.

  • FCOLT involves the development of social skills. FCOLT may be the only opportunity for some children to engage in social interactions with other children. Children spend time sharing culture, making choices, and developing rules for play (Jarrett).

What are the benefits of FCOLT? Cont.

  • According to Johnson, “Every study shows that children are more attentive after recess.” Prolonged periods of confinement in elementary classrooms have been found to lead to increased fidgeting, restlessness, and subsequent inability to concentrate. According to Pellegrini, not having recess is almost inhumane because children are being confined in their classrooms for hours each day.

What are the implications for SAISD?

  • Inactivity is associated with the tripling of childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (Jarrett). As a society that is concerned about the health risks of obesity, it is also important to note that children will likely learn to be inactive as adults if they are not provided with opportunities to be active when they are young.

What are the implications for SAISD?

  • Many of the children in our district spend their time after school sitting in front of the television. In many neighborhoods, playing outside is not safe. Additionally, some children have no place to play.

What are the implications for SAISD?

  • The National Association for Sport and Physical Education says that children need at least 60 minutes of developmentally appropriate physical activity every day. Extended periods of inactivity are not developmentally appropriate for children.

What are the implications for SAISD?

  • Current P.E. schedules fall short of the recommended 60 minutes daily of physical activity. P.E. can not be a substitute for FCOLT, since they serve different purposes.

What are the implications for SAISD?

The Council for Physical Education and Children recommends that both P.E. and recess be a part of every school day with recess providing unstructured play time where children, “…have choices, develop rules for play… and practice or use skills developed in physical education.”

What are the implications for SAISD?

  • P.E. classes are not enough…free choice play specifically outdoor play, encourages physical activity in a unique way.


Grade levels of teachers participating in survey….

How much recess is currently available to your students?







Structured Play


What is developmentally appropriate for the children?

Unstructured Play


Structured Play

Unstructured Play

How do Teachers value recess?

Do teachers want their students participating in unstructured, outdoor play?








They already have structured P.E. Children need the opportunity to socialize and have the freedom to participate in whatever activity they please (whether it be the jungle gym, running, walking, or just socializing with their classmates). Children at this age are full of energy that they need to use outdoors or else they will use it in the classroom. Then the learning process will be interrupted. The children’s health is also at risk. The nation is facing a serious dilemma. We are educating an increasing number of overweight children. Not only does this affect their health but also their self-esteem. Kids need to feel better about themselves. There is a correlation between high self-esteem and high academic scores.

1st grade teacher

There is research based information that clearly states recess is needed for fine motor and brain development. Teaching With the Brain in Mind by Eric Jenson clearly states the research that is out there on how motor development and learning are interconnected. The brain needs oxygen to learn and help neurons make connections. When students sit in the classroom all day without a good amount of movement, oxygen is not feeding the brain and that stifles learning. Recess would help with feeding the brain oxygen and that will help maximize learning. Recess is so important to our growing students. With our growing problems of childhood diabetes, students need to be getting exercise. Many students don’t get to run and play outside due to video games. Parents are afraid of the dangers of letting their children play outside. Many other opportunities are lost for students to get the proper play time to grow and develop correctly. I feel it is up to schools to provide some time to help students.

1st grade teacher

If the district wants our students to gain in brain development so they can learn and help this district get higher test scores, then a recess time should be built into the curriculum schedule. In other counties, especially China and Japan, the children are given several recess breaks throughout the day. These are the countries that surpass American students in mathematics and other school subjects. Research proves how motor development effects the brain and learning. We should be the pioneers for recess for better students.

1st grade teacher

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