The Playful Classroom
eBook - ePub

The Playful Classroom

The Power of Play for All Ages

Jed Dearybury, Julie P. Jones

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eBook - ePub

The Playful Classroom

The Power of Play for All Ages

Jed Dearybury, Julie P. Jones

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Shows teachers how and why they should bring play into the classroom to make learning meaningful, relevant, and fun.

Research studies show that all students—young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural—benefit immensely from classrooms filled with art, creativity, and laughter. Fun, playfulness, creative thinking, and individual expression reinforce positive experiences, which in turn lead to more engaged students, better classroom environments, and successful learning outcomes. Designed for K-12 educators, The Playful Classroom describes how teachers can develop a playful mindset for giving students meaningful, relevant and fun learning experiences. This unique real-world guide provides you with everything you need to incorporate engaging, hands-on lessons and creative activities, regardless of the level and subject you teach.

Building on contemporary and seminal works on learning theory and play pedagogy, the authors explain how to inspire your students by bringing play. into your classroom. This clear, user-friendly guide supplies practical strategies and effective solutions for adding the missing ingredients to your classroom culture. Access to the authors' companion website provides videos, learning experiences, and downloadable teaching and learning resources. Packed with relatable humor, proven methods, and valuable insights, this book enables you to:

  • Provide meaningful experiences that will benefit students both in school and later in life
  • Combine the principles of PLAY with traditional curricula to encourage creative learning
  • Promote trust, collaboration, and growth in students
  • Develop a playful mindset for bringing the arts into every lesson
  • Foster critical thinking in any school community

The Playful Classroom: The Power of Play for All Ages is a must-have resource for K-12 educators, higher education professionals, and readers looking for education-based professional development and training resources.

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The Case for Play

Why we must get on the floor with kids, ask questions, be curious; new ideas won't come from regurgitating facts. Play designs the future. Trains, planes, and automobiles of today were the kids' cardboard creations of yesterday.

Hey y'all! (yes, all y'all)

Hey y'all. We see you there, wondering how we're going to devote a whole book to those 15–20 minutes of recess. Are you afraid we're going to tell you to get out there on the monkey bars with your students? Well, you should, but that's not the purpose of this book. You see, when I (Julie) started thinking about the concept of play, I did so with a snarky look on my face.
(Yes, she did.)
Give me a little grace, Jed. My children were still in diapers and I was teaching in a very Direct Instruction–based middle school that was praised for high test scores. What did I know about play? Nothing.
Ok, that's a lie. Growing up, play for me was swinging on a metal swingset inside a chain‐link‐fenced yard outside my Papa's plumbing store. Yes, I swang and sang—at the top of my lungs.
Play for me was challenging my Barbies to put on all‐weather gear and climb their Everest—the white crochet blanket hanging off the side of Nana's bed.
  • Play was hula hoops.
  • Play was paint and cardboard.
  • Play was channeling my inner E. B. White on my (new!) Canon typewriter.
  • Play was roller skating on our indoor/outdoor carpeting of our basement.
  • Play was my carefully curated collection of the Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew in order, on my shelf, just so.
  • But, play was always separate from school.
Then, along comes my friend, Jed. He's an early childhood educator at heart, but don't go getting all “oh, that's cute” on us. He teaches adults now, and the concepts behind his (now, our) methods are much the same. We're like sweet potatoes and yams when it comes to instruction. We're close—‘bout the same. Not Waffle House–sittin’ close, but the good kind.
So here's how it's going down in this section: First, we're going to crank your tractor on the concept of play. Yeah, get excited. It's happening. Then, for you high‐brow, scientific folks we're going to give you the research behind play, including why kids—not just the littles, but even the teenagers (and us teachers)—should be doing more of it. Then, we're going to take you on a journey, reframing the classroom in a world of play. You'll be more effective as a teacher and as a human. And you'll love it. You'll love it because it's fun and entertaining.
You will love it a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!
Kinda like when you get off the “It's a Small World” ride at Disney—you'll be singing this song all day.

Defining PLAY

We have all played at some point, hopefully. While our play histories may not be identical because of various socioeconomic, cultural, and societal norms, most of us know what playing feels like. It's those moments where our spirit lets go of time constraints, our minds get lost in the moment, and we seemingly lose ourselves in the experience. There is a name for that, and we will discuss it more in depth in a bit. But, when it gets down to defining play, we get silly headed—especially academic folk. In the halls of academia, from third grade all the way to higher education especially, it seems that the idea of playing while learning/learning while playing has gotten a bad rap. No one seems to be able to agree on anything but its ambiguity.
We had quite the playful moment right in the middle of the Marriott lobby deciding if the correct word there was “wrap” or “rap.” Trust us, neither of us will ever forget which one is the correct word because of the hilarity of the playfulness that transpired. The learning stuck because we played.
Getting this train back on its tracks here … Let's consider these historically academic definitions for play:
  • Play is a “paradox” because it both is and is not what it appears to be. —Geoffrey Bateson, biologist (1955)
  • Play is “liminol” or “liminoid” (occupies a space between reality and unreality). —Victor Turner, anthropologist (1969)
  • Play is “amphibolous” (goes in two directions at once). —Michael Spariosu, classical scholar (1989)
We could go on, but you get the point. Let's get some things straight. Mama would say, “Let's have a word of prayer.” Play isn't what you're thinking it is. Take a look at the next image. We sketched it for you, but the real worksheet is floating around out there and was recently texted to us from a fellow teacher buddy. Do you see the problem? No? Don't worry, you will soon. In reality, play is so much more than the perception presented here.
Cartoon illustration of two children learning (upper) and playing (lower).
When most people hear play, they think of the behavior. They think of monkey bars and swings. Hide and go seek and Red Rover. Red light, green light, and Simon says.
  • Four square.
  • Freeze tag.
  • Mother may I?
  • A tisket, a tasket.
  • Sardines.
  • Pickle.
Yes, they're right. But let's expand this concept: there's play; then there's playful. One describes a behavior, the other a mindset. We're going to talk about both.
Play is throwing a frisbee in the yard (air currents and wind power) or painting what you see (scientific method of observation) or reading for pleasure (imagination and visualization of text). Playfulness is the inclination to smile or laugh during all of these activities. Playfulness is the way we see the world. Playfulness is skipping and frolicking instead of walking. Playfulness is a mindset—an approach to each situation with intentional fun. The playful mindset includes having an awareness of our world, being intentional about our choices, honoring the process until it becomes a habit, and using results as a catalyst for more creativity.
According to our friend Anthony DeBenedet, MD, playfulness is not a radical new form of intelligence. Rather, it's an extension of both intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences (you know, all that work by Howard Gardner).
(Jed: Do we all know it? I don't … Googlin' now!)
While these two are separate concepts, both are needed and reap maximum benefits. Read on.

Play as a Behavior

Let's dive into the first notion: play as a behavior. Yes, children play every day. But it's not just the 20 minutes after lunch when teachers chat on the sidewalk and scan the playground for potential dangers or risk‐taking before injuries occur. That is play. But that's just one kind: free play. We could go off here on how much love we show for our students when we play with them—on the swings, with the football, foot races, etc. But, granny said there's a time and a place for everything; just know that sermon is a comin'. Through free play, children learn to cooperate, follow rules, expand imaginations, strengthen their mind and body, and take failure in stride (Pang, 2016). Games of chance and simple video games are also in this category.
Another kind of play, not so well known, is deep play. The term was made popular by Clifford Geertz (1973), an anthropologist writing about Balinese cockfighting. Cockfighting in Bali is more than free play. In the United States, cockfighting is illegal, mean, and wrong, and we are in no way condoning this practice; however, in Bali it's a show of wealth and social status. It's competition between villages with high symbolic stakes. It's also personal and provides people with a satisfaction that has lasting benefits of the kind free play doesn't.
In her book, Deep Play (2000), Diane Ackerman explains, “Deep play is the ecstatic form of play. In its thrall, all the play elements are visible, but they're taken to intense and transcendent heights. Thus, deep play should really be classified by mood, not activity.” When we are using the phrase deep play, we are really talking about the process—the how of what's going on. What's happening isn't as important as how. Just because we're playing cards doesn't mean we're engaged in deep play, but we could be if we're in the strategizing, competitive zone. Ackerman shares, “Some activities are prone to it: art, religion, risk‐taking, and some sports—especially those that take place in relatively remote, silent, and risky environments, such as scuba diving, parachuting, hang gliding, mountain climbing.”
So, what is the qualifier that separates free play from deep play? Well, there are four. And, only one of them has to be present ...