Student engagement can grow through the power of play and learning through play.

Creating student engagement through the power of play


Play is an essential part of learning and growth, fostering a learning mindset and teaching students to absorb knowledge through exercise and practice

Recently, my colleagues and I attended a summer camp where we introduced students to some fantastic STEM activities. Kids learned how to create their own lava lamps out of everyday kitchen materials. They programed Sphero robots and used them to make cooperative artwork. We also taught them how to make circuits out of batteries and wire, as well as exploding paint bags. The events were endless, and the students had a great time, because more than anything science should be fun!

As I look back on the events of camp, I’m reminded of how important this type of play is for young minds. Play is an essential part of learning and growth. In nature, animal cubs play to sharpen their hunting skills or learn valuable foraging techniques. Among humans, play teaches valuable social skills like communication and cooperation. It also fosters a learning mindset, teaching students to absorb knowledge through exercise and practice.

While unstructured play has its place in education, most teachers need something with a little more organization if we’re to help our students grow. We can accomplish this by dividing play into two distinct categories: Playing Downhill and Playing Uphill.

Playing Downhill

Playing downhill alludes to having a playful attitude toward life and learning. It refers to any situation where student curiosity is sparked, and where students are encouraged to follow their questions to see where they lead. We can foster a playful attitude with some specific teaching strategies that encourage students to play downhill.

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.

Playing Uphill

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.

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.

INNOVATIONS in K-12 Education

 

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.