The photo above was provided by our contributor, Gisele Texiera, a 3rd-grade teacher. To follow her wonderful creative journey, check out her Twitter @Ms_GTeixeira
5 Ideas to Bring Playfulness into Your Classroom
Play, creativity, and learning have a harmonious relationship. Sometimes as adults we don’t see ourselves as playful people, perhaps because we see play as something more appropriate for kids, or because we are worried about looking silly. Whatever the reason is, we all deserve a little play in our lives, and our classrooms certainly need it too. We should not deprive our students of play simply because we don’t feel playful. Here are 5 ideas to dip your toes in play, even if you think you are not a playful person.
Play Dance Music
Don’t worry, you don’t have to dance, but eventually you might get tempted!. Find a dance playlist or ask your students to create a playlist that invites them to dance. Instead of hand shaking as the students enter your room, invite them to enter with a movement. While students come in and settle in their places and get their materials ready, let the music play. Some will dance, some might not, but you are giving them the chance. Dance is a big part of a playful attitude. It moves our body and raises our energy.
Play Board Games
Ask students to bring board games for one day, and plan for a couple of periods for students to play board games of their choosing. Why board games? Kids today play a lot of online games. Playing board games with classmates allows them to interact in different ways. Board games also help develop different skills such as strategy, creativity, humor, and tolerance, among others. Here are some ideas for board games: Catan, Dixit, Pictionary, Scrabble, Boggle, Jenga, and Cranium.
Tip: make sure you have enough board games, as students might forget to bring them in. Make sure you bring some to leave in your classroom.
Design a Colorful and Rich Classroom Environment
Spaces have a big influence on our mood and emotions, and the environment can help us be open to a more playful state of mind. To achieve this, create an environment that is colorful and makes your students feel welcome. If it is cold, have some blankets; if it is warm, have some small fans or water spray bottles. Hang some string lights, buy some wall stickers that provide color, have a reading corner with some pillows, and bring in some plants.
You may also ask your students to design a space that makes them feel playful. For example, you can have posters of sports players or singers; you could have a feature wall with characters of the month. Make your classroom a space that everyone feels comfortable in and that invites you to have FUN.
Create an Arts and Crafts Corner
As a class, have an arts and crafts corner. Everyone can bring some materials—I’m sure you could find friends that have leftover beads, brushes, or coloring books, among other artsy items. Agree as a class on some ground rules on how to use the space: allow for students to use it during recess, when they finish some work, or—even better—as part of one of your content activities. For example, create a model of a water molecule with any material they want.
Take a Risk to be More Playful
Play with your students as an extra player. Try not being the teacher for a moment, believing there needs to be a pedagogical objective for this. There is not—just play and enjoy it! That’s the goal of play: have fun and enjoy.
As we grow, we leave behind many of our childhood traits, but play should not be one of them. Even if you feel you are not playful, play is fundamental for our students’ development so we need to provide spaces for play for them. Which of these ideas appeals more? What other ideas do you have to incorporate play into your practice?
Lola Schnapp M.S. is an advocate for creativity in education. She believes that creativity is the missing link for achieving the best education for generations to come. She has worked as a classroom teacher from 2nd grade to 10th grade, working with students and teachers to integrate creativity and technology to develop autonomous and creative thinkers. Currently, she is a Pedagogical Coordinator in a K – 12 school in Chile implementing Project-Based Learning. She is the co-author of 20 Lessons to Weave Creative Thinking into Your Classroom.
Lola has a Bachelor’s in Primary Education, a Graduate Certificate in Social and Emotional Learning, and a Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership from SUNY Buffalo State, where she was awarded the Mary Murdock Award for her creative spirit. Her academic interests include: How to use creativity to improve schools and classrooms, and developing creativity and leadership in new generations.