When was the last time you played? I mean really just played, no alcohol, no serious competition, just for the pure joy of doing something that was fun. If you are like most adults it’s probably been a while.
Unfortunately the same holds true for our students. We live in a culture that sends incredibly confusing and mixed messages to youth. The first being, “hurry up and grow up” and the second, “now is your time to not care about anything but yourself.” These are dangerous messages, especially combined. “YOLO” encourages youth to make dangerous choices and not think about the consequences. On top of that we herd them into schools where even Kindergarten is all about content and no longer about exploration and the excitement of learning. My daughter took more standardized tests in the first three years of schooling than I did my entire K-12 education. Even recess time is structured and organized in ways that train students to be compliant as opposed to playful and imaginative. Our kids are forgetting how to play, and we are forgetting the power of play.
The Global School Play Day was created in 2015 as a way to educate and inspire people all over the world to play again. And last year over 530,000 people from 71 different nations took the day to let loose and have fun. In preparation for this year's Global Play Day on February 5, we would like to provide some research and tools as to why we too should remember the power of play.
What the research says:
There is a ton of research out there about the importance of play, a simple google search will lead you to myriad reasons we should be playing more in our classrooms. If you are interested here are some of my favorite studies.
How do we do it in the classroom when we have so many standards to meet?
We talk all the time at CharacterStrong about not adding more to our plate but getting more intentional about what we are already doing. Here are some ways to add a little play without losing any content.
Getting into groups- We are always looking for ways to group students and get them to work with a variety of their classmates. Why not do it with a game?
Before a hard test– A quick game of tag right before a hard test gets the students laughing, moving and de-stressing. It takes 3 minutes and can really change the tone of testing in the classroom
Boogie Breaks- when you can tell that they are just too wiggly, too overwhelmed with information, or just a little sluggish, turn on some music and dance. It takes 30 seconds and changes the mood of the room just as quickly.
Implement Funday Friday!
What about using it to teach skills we know they all need for success in life?
Creative problem solving- One of the biggest concerns coming from the post K-12 world is that students are not equipped with the ability to, take risks, think critically and creatively problem solve. What if we regularly gave them tasks they had to work together, communicate, think outside the box and problem solve..and what if it was disguised as a game?
One of my favorites is seen in this picture. Students are provided 10 cups, a rubber band and 4 pieces of string. They need to figure out how to use them to make a pyramid out of the cups without ever physically touching the cup with their hands.
At first, they couldn’t figure out how to use all their resources.
After MUCH trial and error, discussion and prototypes, they created this
Which led to this!
We have tons of activities for all grade levels available in our CharacterStrong Gym! Get creative, have fun, and PLAY ALONG!
Krista Gypton taught for 19 years and has received numerous awards for her teaching and student community service, including the 2008 Arizona Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence. She is an emphatic believer in the power of service to others and has traveled as far as South Africa with students to give back. She has been a keynote speaker and trainer for the past 11 years, both nationally and internationally.