The Great Recess Framework

The Great Recess Framework is an observational tool designed to help educators and researchers evaluate and plan school recess with a holistic approach.

While physical activity levels are certainly one element of a successful recess, other aspects such as safety, adult engagement, communication, autonomy, and inclusion have often been overlooked. The Great Recess Framework observational tool was developed by practitioners at Playworks and researchers at Oregon State University. We encourage the use of ​our work for educational and research purposes.

Playworks Great Recess Framework

The GRF observational tool has been established as a valid and reliable tool for recess observations. Download the GRF.

For researchers

For educators

For Researchers

Download the GRF

If you intend to use the Great Recess Framework observational tool (GRF-OT) for research purposes, we would appreciate a reference list of any publications that use the GRF-OT. If you have any questions on the use of the GRF-OT, please contact William Massey, PhD at

To cite the GRF-OT please use the following reference:

Massey, W.V., Stellino, M.B., Mullen, S.P., Claassen, J. & Wilkinson, M. (2018). Development of the great recess framework – observational tool to measure contextual and behavioral components of elementary school recess. BMC Public Health, 18:394. 

Learn more about GRF for Researchers


For Educators

Download the GRF

You are welcome to use the Great Recess Framework observational tool to better understand recess at your school and identify strengths and areas for improvement. If you would like to be trained in using the Great Recess Framework as a valid tool for reporting outcomes, please contact Jennette Claassen, M.S.W. at

Learn more about GRF for Educators   

Recess Research

The majority of children’s school-based physical activity opportunities take place during recess. This opportunity is vital given that engagement in exercise and physical activity has been shown to improve children’s physical and cognitive health outcomes (Bailey et al., 2013) and is particularly important in children who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (Milteer & Ginsburg, 2012).

Despite ongoing claims that recess is necessary for the psycho-social, emotional, and academic development for children, recess is generally assessed by the objective measure of children’s physical activity levels. When children interact with peers in physical activities, such as recess, it allows them to develop necessary social and emotional skills such as cooperative goal setting, teamwork, and emotional control (Miyamoto et al., 2015).


Explore our bibliography of recess research

   More Resources

Take a 3-Minute Quiz Based on the GRF ›

Playworks has opened up its playbook and launched Recess Lab. Recess Lab offers free tools like the Recess Checkup—a three-minute online quiz designed to help you assess your play space.
kids jumping

Use the GRF to Support Your Recess Strategy ›

The CDC and Shape America have released new strategies for recess in schools. The GRF is one tool you can use to keep track of your efforts as you implement these strategies during your recess time.

Researchers Have a Framework for a Building a Better Recess (EdWeek) ›

Amid mounting evidence that recess can help support student learning, health, and social skills, researchers are taking a closer look at what a “high quality” recess looks like.