Power (of) Play

I recently read an article in Marie Claire @ Play (a special supplement issue that came with my subscription over the summer) entitled “State of Play” by Joanne Chen. The article explores how more and more, research is showing that play is a key element in our lives. Play can make us happier and healthier. Taking time out of the work day for play can even make us more productive.

Chen’s article looked at four specific ways that play can make us all better works and even help us professionally:

  1. Play helps you focus-Research shows that our attention spans are cyclical and to get the most out of a day, we should schedule regular breaks.
  2. Play helps us bond-Games help us get to know each other and even help us develop social skills.
  3. Play makes us more creative-When we play games without any “right” answers we stimulate our imaginations and kickstart the brain storming, innovation process.
  4. Play helps us all get along-Research has shown play not only lowers stress levels (which makes us all easier to get along with) it encourages collaboration between people and makes for better, more productive work relationships.

The power of play can have similar effects for our students. In fact, children today need planned play breaks built in to their days more than ever. Have you seen some of their schedules? Today’s children have more packed in their schedules than ever (some have more on their plate than I do on a typical day!).

To further explore the power of play for our students and ourselves and for some great tips and ideas, check out the blogs Board Games with Scott and Because Play Matters also written by Scott Nicholson. Scott Nicholson is a professor at Syracuse University where he conducts “research on how to facilitate learning through games and play in non-classroom settings” as well as looking “at both the creation of transformative games and meaningful gamification” (Because Play Matters, About Scott Nicholson). Go to YouTube and check out Scott’s appearance on the CBS Sunday Morning.

Happy exploring and happy gaming everyone! Please feel free to share your own gaming tips and experiences using games in the classroom.




Preventing Classroom Chaos (or How to Keep Kids Entertained & Happy)

The beginning of the school year can be a crazy time as students get use to their new teachers, classmates, schedules and in some cases, schools. As teachers, we have our hands full helping them adjust and teaching them what we’ll expect from them in our classrooms. It can be stressful and unexpected situations can pop up anytime. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some articles I’ve found that may be useful for parents and teachers alike.

First up, some articles on teaching kids relaxation techniques. As I’ve said already, the beginning of the school year and all its newness can be stressful. Familiarizing yourself and your students with these techniques can help everyone deal with the stress better.

  • This article from Psychology Today talks about teaching kids both deep breathing and visualization techniques: Teach Your Kids to De-Stress
  • This article from Fox News was originally published in Real Simple Family: Managing Your Child’s Stress. It not only covers techniques but why they work, how to teach them, and tips on when to try them.

Sometimes, things don’t go as expected during the day (shocking I know). Keep the kids entertained while you wait or when you finish up earlier than expected with some of these simple ways to wow.

  • This magic trick is quick to set up and uses just three props you most likely have access to during the school day. Kids love it and they love it even more when you let them keep the “magic” paper clips that result.
  • The execution of The Hotel card trick is simple but that doesn’t stop it from wowing kids just the same. When I tell the story I like to make it kid friendly and say the kings decide to go on vacation with their wives the queens and their kids (the jacks). They arrive at the hotel late and are so tired from traveling they go straight to their rooms, lock the doors (put the aces on the pile) and try to relax and watch TV. But, power goes off in the hotel and they all go down to the lobby to complain ( I say this while I pick up the piles). On the way back to their rooms in the dark they all get mixed up and confused (have the kids cut the deck while you say this) and in the morning when they wake up they find all the kings are in the same room, all the queens are in the same room,  and all the jacks are in the same room.
  • Finally, here’s a list of tips and tricks for making you a better story teller. Sometimes, the best way to hold students’ attentions is with a story but you don’t always have access to a book to share. Learning to tell engaging, entertaining tales on the fly could help  keep your students entertained and out of trouble during unplanned down times and waiting periods.

I hope you enjoyed these quick tips on keeping students relaxed, calm, entertained and, hopefully, out of trouble during the school day. Do you have any tips and tricks of your own that relax and/or entertain your students? I’d love it if you shared them.