Here’s Why You SHOULD Have More Playfulness In Your Classroom
Playfulness is a powerful force in the classroom. Playfulness fosters creativity and innovation; builds connections socially; and improves academic performance. Students develop strong feelings of efficacy during play and through challenges are able to discover their strengths and weakness in a safe environment. Play is a cognitive process that allows students to engage in imagination, experimentation, exploration of things, thoughts, ideas, and possibilities.
Laura Robb in her 2016 article 10 Motivators to Promote Playful Learning states that there has been a trend of reducing play time in the classroom in exchange for allocating more time for direct reading and writing instruction. The link between play, creativity and happiness is strong. Play, creativity and learning go hand in hand. First let me make a case of why you need more playfulness in your classroom and finally ways to meaningfully incorporate more play and humor into your classroom day.
Cognitive benefits for students
It has been long researched regarding the effectiveness of including play in and out of the classroom. Pinchover (2017) mentions that students in that form of environment can have better divergent thinking and problem-solving skills. Cabrera et. al. (2017) found out that parents and children having play time at home can improve the latter’s regulatory and vocabulary skills.
Emotional benefits for students
Not having enough play in the classroom can also be a missed opportunity for educators in satisfying their students’ emotional needs. Robb (2016) mentions that play can provide self-confidence to them. Aside from that, she says that students can cooperate better while being brought up this way, enabling them to not only become better middle or high school students, but even adults as well.
What does play have to do with creativity? It really has a lot to do with activating motivations. Robb (2016) cites the following student motivators:
- Providing choice
- Collaborating to learn
- Integrating meaningful talk
- Problem solving
- Inquiry learning
- Encouraging risk taking
- Developing empathy
- Teacher-student negotiating
- Taking healthy breaks in between lessons
All these motivators are traced back to allowing people to play as they are younger to set their fundamentals in social development and learning. Plato, one of the prominent Greek philosophers, wrote that letting children play helps them prepare for their future career (Robb, 2016).
Tips on how to include more playfulness
Examine your own ideas about what fun and play mean to you. Is it important? How will your classroom environment improve if you make a conscious effort to be more playful and fun? Whenever us humans need to make a change we really need to believe in why we should change and the benefits and sometimes that isn’t even enough. It is though a good place to start. Work on your internal blocks to playfulness and fun and take baby steps to bring it in your classroom.
Use More “Fun” Language
Point out when something makes you laugh. Laugh with your students more. Find a joke of the day and share it with your kids. When you are working on a lab, project or fun activity, point out what makes it fun for you. Tell students that they are funny and make you laugh or point out how much you love their smile and laugh.
Bring out Your Silly & Be Playful Yourself
On occasion wear something silly or funny. For example, when reading you can wear big clown glasses. On a day where mood feels more somber, declare a word of the day, and when anyone says the word of the day, you clap! There are lots of ways to incorporate silly and fun routines into your day. You can even celebrate a day, for example, water bottle day and everyone shares why they love their water bottle. Silly means silly, don’t over think it and just try it out. The kids might love it or they might not. Learn from it and try again. The older your students the harder it might for them to be silly and fun. Then we have even more work to do, don’t we. Keep following my blog because I am on a mission to bring fun and play to classrooms!
Having play breaks
As the day passes, your students can feel tired as they go through all their lessons. When planning an activity, give your students ample time to relax and catch their breaths. Have games and puzzles students can play with friends or alone.
Create an adventure with each lesson
Everyone has played video games in one way or another. What keeps people hooked onto them is that there is a goal they have to reach and an entertaining way to go to it. If you want your students to feel like they’re just playing a game, plan your lessons around an interactive adventure where your goal is to help your students to remember what you’re teaching them. Maybe design a lesson map where they need to check off as they do the tasks and earn points or badges!
Though classroom time is certainly precious, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate more play and humor into your classroom day. The benefits go far beyond the fun factor too—in addition to making your lessons more memorable, playful learning techniques that facilitate engagement and spark creativity also reinforce key skills in critical thinking and collaboration. So why not make a small sacrifice to give more opportunities for playfulness?