Early on as children we learn about play and invite it into every facet of our lives. Then something happens along the way and that fun begins to diminish more and more. We get older and our parents tell us to “stop being silly.” We go to school and teachers teach us how to sit properly, stand properly and speak properly. There is no time to play around because there is so much reading and math instruction that needs to be taught. Let’s be real, there is less and less time for fun the older we get. Adults carry a limiting belief that does not mix business with play.
Our children are growing up in a society that puts pressure on goals, career and creating a sustainable future. There is nothing wrong with it, but there is one piece missing from the puzzle. A piece that was once there but has now been lost. That is fun.
This simple truth has made me question many times the type of classroom I want to have. Yes, I want to build structure, autonomy and high expectations in my classroom. Who’s to say that I wouldn’t have any of those things if I invited more fun into the day? No one but me. I believed for so long that it wouldn’t; that there would be more chaos and off task behavior. This is far from the truth. With clear expectations it is possible to have a classroom full of fun. Here are some things you can do to invite more play into your classroom:
Children love to move. It’s the main thing we want them to not do in the classroom. We find that it is easy for some kids to sit still and listen, while others are wigglers and constantly moving in their seat. Instead of getting frustrated with those type of students it would be beneficial to put some type of movement in your lessons. Or to create activities that allow the students to get up and move around the room.
Whole brain teaching techniques in the classroom allow students to chant along with the teacher while using their hands. This increases student engagement and keeps them on their toes. There are also several programs that exist that get students up and moving between lessons such as Go Noodle. Teachers are able to play quick videos that get their students dancing, singing and moving. With free sites like Go Noodle, students are not only engaged but they are learning as well. They offer several videos that are related to science, math and literacy. Your students can move in the classroom while learning.
There are several ways to invite more play into the classroom using game boards and props to make learning more engaging. Using an old Jenga set to play a math game or reading game can be effective. Students can answer questions and then pull their block from the tower. Or the blocks can be filled in with different colors and students pull the block from the tower and then answer questions based on the color they pulled.
Websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers offer several interactive products such as game boards and playing cards. One of my favorite games to use in my small group instruction is called “Dice and Roll.” Students get an oversized dice to roll and based on the number it lands on they will answer the question related to that number. The questions are typically focused around the text we are discussion. It is an easy and quick way to introduce play into the classroom while students are enhancing their comprehension.
Playing music in the classroom is a great way to invite more fun into the classroom. Music can change the mood in your classroom while relieving stress and anxiety. A variety of music can be played in the classroom while students are working or doing an activity. With my middle schoolers I typically play relaxing and calm music while they are working. When students are working in groups or having discussions I will play something more upbeat. I like to play the instrumentals to their favorite songs. On Fridays, my best classes get to have “Jammin Fridays” where the students are able to create their own playlist and listen to songs of their choice.
Technology has become an important resource in the modern-day classroom. Students have access to IPADS, chromebooks, smartboards and smart TV’s. Online systems are used to help students store and complete classroom assignments online. The use of electronics in the classroom alone has increased student engagement. Using online games to help students learn has been taking over the internet with websites such as Quia, Knowre, Minecraft Edu and Kahoot. These are only a few examples of websites that can be used to invite more play into your lessons. It takes time to research and learn how to use these sites but it is well worth it in the end.
A new wave of engagement and learning has come from a concept called classroom transformation. This involves the teacher creating a theme for their classroom and transforming it to fit that theme for the day or even a week! The transformation involves props, games and even food related to the theme. They are typically done throughout the year under the teachers discretion. Some of the popular themes that have been created are game day, where the teacher may turn their classroom into a football field or basketball court. The teacher may also turn their classroom into a museum, restaurant or even a fairy tale world from a popular novel.
These types of transformation can involve spending more money on your classroom. This will involve putting in the time and effort to create a world that is transformed from your everyday classroom. The teacher typically creates their lessons for the day or week around the theme. Classroom transformations can be very rewarding for the teacher. It can also impact the students by giving them a classroom experience that they will never forget.
In conclusion, you may be thinking “does she do these things all the time?” No, there is no way I would or even could. So in truth, there are several things about me that still make me an adult. I still hold on to some of those beliefs because it is the only way I tell myself that I can stay sane. The joys of teaching!
How do you bring more engagement and fun into your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you.