Playtime is an essential part of pre-K and elementary education, where activities like arts and crafts, recess, and outdoor exploration help students learn about the world around them and develop new personal, cognitive, and social skills. Likewise, if you read the newest issue of the EF Journal, you know that play is just as essential for teenagers and adults. However, it’s much rarer to see play incorporated into middle and high school curricula.
Between testing requirements, timing restrictions, and that little thing called teaching, it can seem impossible to make time for play at any point during the day—let alone during school hours. Yet, the benefits of teen and adult play are so high (we’re talking reduced stress, stronger thinking skills, increased empathy and creativity, and more engaged students) that we think it’s worth working into your schedule. If you’re interested in learning about quick games to play in the classroom but aren’t sure how, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Bring in toys to fiddle with
We know what you’re thinking—no more fidget spinners! Yet distracting as they can be, toys can also be incredible sources of inspiration when used at appropriate times, such as brainstorm sessions. Giving students something tactile to play with is another way to stimulate and express new thoughts. Plus, a table filled with small toys (think: building blocks or Play-Doh) signals to students that you’re truly looking for new, out-of-the-box ideas, which could encourage them to step outside of their comfort zones.
2. Play improv games
Think of improv as the grown-up version of make-believe. Its unscripted nature encourages students to be creative, collaborate with others, and practice their communication skills. Plus, it’s a fun way for students to take the reins while working within a groundwork that you get to set up. Here’s an improv game to play in the classroom: Have students sit in a circle and tell them they’re going to review a concept they’ve been studying from their textbooks. The catch? Each person can only say one word at a time. This forces students to think quickly, listen to their peers, and stay engaged. If they’re not paying attention to the twists and turns in the narrative, they won’t be able to contribute during their own turn.
3. Let students focus on their own personal interests
These are the years when students should be trying new hobbies and discovering their personal strengths, so try to assign projects that let students highlight their own interests. For example, encourage students to supplement a written essay with something artistic such as a skit or a sculpture. Or, if your students love movies, ask them to find one that incorporates something you’ve been studying in class and have them discuss whether or not the film’s depiction was realistic. By letting students choose their own ways to combine their studies and interests, they’ll not only discover some real-life applications of their lessons but also become more invested in their work.