Educators have many tools at their disposal when it comes to teaching methods. New technology has broadened access to educational materials and spread awareness of new learning strategies that can benefit students. With educators reporting that students are disengaged in class and falling behind academic expectations since the pandemic, there is a real need for new strategies to make students excited to learn again!
One of the most effective ways to engage students in the academic experience is through play. Countless studies have shown that play is fundamental for childhood development and remains important even in adulthood. And while traditional wisdom would have us confine play to recess or gym time, we are learning more about how play is actually a useful tool in all areas of education, including math, English, science, and other subjects.
Play is a collaborative activity, one that asks students to engage with the teacher, their lessons, and each other with an open mind. School provides a neutral space for students to connect with one another and practice social skills. These skills in turn promote resilience and self-confidence. Play is an easy, fun way to open the door to positive social interactions between students.
Just like social skills, physical activity is also incredibly important to childhood development. Most parents report that their kids have been less physically active since the beginning of the pandemic. This despite the fact that experts recommend children get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Incorporating active play into the school day democratizes access to safe, active playtime for kids.
Play doesn’t have to be a total break from education and lessons– students can learn while they play! But there is also great value in taking breaks from learning to have fun and be silly. Students retain material better when they take breaks, and students who don’t take breaks actually have worse academic performance. Check out this blog post for a list of fun brain break ideas.
Not all students take well to the discipline and quiet expected in a classroom environment. Students with ADHD, learning disabilities, processing disorders, or simply different learning styles may find it hard to follow along in a classroom that holds little space for those who don’t conform. That’s where learning through play can be helpful for both educators and students.
There are so many skills that students are expected to learn at school, from morality to fair play to problem-solving. While actual lesson content is certainly important, these ‘soft skills’ are also necessary to students’ development. Making time for play lets students pick up these skills naturally by socializing with peers and experimenting with activities and games.
It may be hard to know where to begin with incorporating play in the classroom, especially if teachers are under pressure from school administrators to prioritize test results above all else. But carving out a few minutes of time for some of these playful learning methods can pay great rewards in student engagement and academic performance. Here are a few strategies for educators to teach with play in the classroom.
We’re proud of how our Splats allow teachers to customize games for their classroom. They’re the perfect tool for educators looking to help their students learn through play. We’ve heard from teachers in many different disciplines about how Splats get their students physically active, engaged, and excited about learning. Today, we’d like to get into how one school district uses Splats to prioritize play, foster collaboration, and make learning fun!
10 schools in Nova Scotia recently collaborated in a district-wide Splats mini stomp competition. Schools competed against one another to see who could collect the most stomps in their custom coding game, Rising Tides. The winning school, Burton Ettinger, ended the competition with 176,000 stomps!
Teachers loved how the Rising Tides game teaches coding fundamentals in a fun way while getting kids up and moving. Nykola Killam, a teacher at North Queens Elementary in Nova Scotia, told us “Splats allow teachers to have fun with their students while also implementing coding, math, language arts, and other subjects! Splats provide a new way to learn and that’s important.” We agree, Nykola!
We know the demands on educators and students are significant right now. Learning through play provides a valuable boost to productivity and shakes up the status quo in the most delightful way. Try out some of our strategies for learning through play to bring something fresh to your classroom this school year.