Seeking Advice For How To Avoid “Full Stops”

Yesterday was the start of a wonderful new adventure as I became a JK/SK teacher with a new partner. September showed us the value in having large blocks of time for students to play and explore, with small group instruction to target individual needs. Our routine yesterday allowed for this, and it was great to see the students interacting with each other, beginning to problem solve together, and forming new connections with new friends.

One big thing that we would still like to reconsider is break time. Just as students are truly immersed in play/learning, we have to stop for a nutrition break. I know that others have handled this same issue with some kind of variation of the solution listed below.

  • Many classes have self-regulated snacks and lunches. For these breaks, there’s a table where students can eat throughout the day. They remain accountable for eating by checking into this table at least once a day. Then they can eat when they’re hungry, and the learning can continue smoothly over the nutrition breaks, usually largely thanks to the supervision and facilitation by the Early Childhood Educator.

I love this idea! Yesterday, we used our Snack Program snacks for a Snack Table where students chose to come throughout the day. Chatting with each other also provided good opportunities, in small groups, to practice social skills and develop oral language skills. The problem is that our supervision and prep time schedules do not allow for self-regulated breaks, in lieu of nutrition breaks, to work consistently.

Without these breaks, students need to clean-up before every nutrition break, so that there are spots at the tables for them to eat. This means more transitions and breaks in learning time. It also means that students need to start playing/learning again after every break, and we wonder if this will impact on getting to that richer, deeper learning that happens over time. How might we avoid classroom clean-ups before every nutrition break (if we can’t use the self-regulated option)? How have educators in various grades handled this same problem? What are the benefits and/or drawbacks for students? We’d welcome any insights and ideas that you can share.



6 thoughts on “Seeking Advice For How To Avoid “Full Stops”

  1. Aviva I’m not sure how prep time and supervision impacts on self regulated snack? My students go out for morning recess and lunch recess. We do a snack table for snacks and we clean up for lunch. I find having the snack table gives them more time to immerse in their play. We have them clean up for recess at the momment but will allow them to leave their play for recess and come back to it once they have the routines in place. (with no clean up) Perhaps I need more information about your prep and supervision and how it impacts your schedule before I can comment further.

    • Thanks for sharing your idea, Barb! Many of the self-regulation snack options that I’ve seen, eliminate both nutrition breaks and include a switch in outdoor play. With the number of adults needed for supervision outside, I’m not sure that we could eliminate the outdoor play option. Most of my preps are attached to nutrition breaks, and my worry was that without lunch in the afternoon, there wouldn’t be enough time in between for students to all make it to the snack table to eat. I want to ensure that when students are hungry, they do get this opportunity. Your option though might work for us. We could leave the play in the morning, go outside for recess, have the snack table available throughout for students to go to when they’re hungry, and then clean-up in time for the second break. This would be a change in routine from what the students are accustomed to, but it would provide a longer block of time to extend play/learning. Thanks for giving me a very workable option!


  2. We have the same struggle and haven’t come up with a great solution yet. Some of my kiddos who are still really trying to develop their play skills and self-regulation skills almost seem to benefit from the opportunity to clear the board and start over again. Sort of a mental recharge. But on some days we’ve been able to go have a picnic outside (although in New England it’s impossible to count on this every day)

    • Thanks for your reply, @Colbyk133! I can see how some students would benefit from starting again. I guess that I’m thinking that with an option to extend the play, some students could always choose to start fresh, while others could choose to continue. Now that choice isn’t there for them. In Ontario, an outdoor picnic wouldn’t work well on every day of the year either, but it might be a good option in the sunny weather. I’m not totally sure on location and supervision options, but you’ve given me something else to think about. Thanks!


  3. Hi!
    In my FDK class, we don’t stop for nutritional breaks. We have a snack table available for them to go eat when they are hungry all day long. We have arranged for our flow of the day to have big chunks of time for their self-directed play, the Ss need that to engage in deep learning. The students have outdoor exploration just before our “scheduled lunch” and then again at the end of the day. It’s my understanding that our K students don’t have recess, it’s purposeful play all day long. I am wondering if your Ss have recess?

    • Thanks Tanya! I do love the sound of this. Our K students do have recess as part of our nutrition breaks. I think that this has to do with supervision schedules and number of instructional minutes in the classroom. I don’t know if there’s a way around this. I guess that my partner could continue the learning on her own during these lunch and recess times, but then there’s the question of 26 students in the room with one educator. Maybe no approach is perfect. I think that I’m going to try Barb’s approach: have recesses and the one lunch, but keep the self-regulated snack for the rest of the day. We’ll see how this goes.

      As for outdoor learning, I do extend this time in the middle block, just before our recess (so students stay outside). This is learning/meaningful play/exploration/outdoor inquiry time and not just an extended recess. I like your end of the day idea, but we have some restrictions on outdoor time at the very beginning and very end of the day to ensure student safety. This middle block works best then.

      Thanks for sharing what you do and giving me more to think about!

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