For example, the “messing about” strategy allows students to directly interact with the content of the day’s lesson. If they’re studying fossils, bring in a small fossil for them to see and touch. If it’s about energy, have them create a circuit using batteries and copper wire. The possibilities are virtually endless. Be sure to have students structure their thinking by making observations, verbally or in writing, as they follow their curiosity to see where it leads.
Play can help us utilize the competitive spirit to improve student performance — but it doesn’t have to be all about creating winners and losers! Instead, have your students work together to achieve a goal. Keep track of how well students do over time and allow them to compete against previous versions of themselves. You’ll level up the cooperation that occurs in your classroom while helping students develop a drive to succeed.
One way to accomplish this is through a teambuilding activity. In the Winding Words game, for example, students create a chain of rich vocabulary words, then work together to re-create their chain precisely. Another possibility is the Helium Stick activity, where students must lower a stick to the ground despite their natural inclination to lift it upwards. The game requires intense cooperation and communication but is still a lot of fun to play.
By incorporating a variety of play into your classroom, you’ll boost student engagement while bolstering their brainpower. You will also create plenty of opportunities for them to develop their social-emotional skills. So remember to implement play into your regular lessons and give your students the skills they need to become curious, well-rounded thinkers.
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