Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hoist the Sails: Breathe New Life Into Your Lessons and Play Dress Up

You might be wondering if I’m serious or if I have gone completely mad.  Play dress-up?  Who has time for that, right?  

In a typical classroom today, teachers and students alike are under a tremendous amount of pressure.  There are standardized tests to prepare for, workbook pages to complete, data to dissect and graph.  There is accountability and rigor.  There is no time for fun.   

As I have mentioned in the previous post Summer Camp at Home: A Solution to the Teacher Mom Struggle, I have two little boys at home.  They inspire me every day to become a better teacher.  To be that classroom teacher that I would want for them.  A teacher that makes learning fun, allows them to move, encourages them to use their imaginations, and creates hands-on experiences.  So it breaks my heart when I look at their innocent faces and see the negative toll that all these pressures have taken.  This is not the educational experience that I want for my children or for any child.  

If our goal is to ignite a passion for learning and create lifelong learners, then I believe we are doing it wrong!

So let’s hoist the sails and change course.  Let’s breathe new life into our lessons and make learning fun again!  

I believe that we can begin by remembering what it was like to be a child ourselves.  I don’t know about you, but I used to love playing dress-up.  My boys love playing dress-up.  Research has shown that dress-up play is vital to a child’s development.  In this article, Dr. Keith Kanner (licensed clinical child, adolescent, and adult psychologist) states, “As with any age, play is symbolic of and used for psychological growth and is the child’s way of practicing new ways of understanding their minds, relationships, and the world around them.” 

I can’t think of a better way of fully immersing our students in the learning process than playing dress-up.  Giving them the opportunity of becoming the storybook character they are reading about, or the Pilgrim that is packing for the long journey across the Atlantic, or that famous American leader they are writing a biography about.

I’ve recently put this to the test with my students.  That’s right...we play dress-up in second grade (well, at least in my classroom)!   

In the beginning of the year, I turned writing workshop into a battlefield.  We became soldiers and wore helmets.  We went through basic training to learn grammar and punctuation rules.  When the soldiers were ready, they went to war with incomplete sentences.

In social studies, we learned about famous explorers.  We wore our explorers hats and wrote with quill pencils.  My little explorers went on an expedition around the room to discover new facts about Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de Leon, and Hernando de Soto.  

Now that it’s November, we have become Native Americans.  We created headdresses and decorated them with Native American symbols to tell a story.  We get into character each day as we learn more about the indigenous people of our land.    

I certainly didn't want to miss out on all the fun my students were having.  So my teaching partner and I decided to dress up as our favorite Mo Willems characters Elephant and Piggie. 

There is no denying that dressing up as Elephant and Piggie was a blast.  But the real fun of incorporating dress-up into my lessons has been watching the excitement on the faces of my students.   Hearing them ask each day if we are becoming explorers, Native Americans, or soldiers again.  I have seen an increase in student engagement, productivity, and retention.  

I invite you to join me on this journey of making learning fun again!  So keep those extra craft supplies or pieces from old Halloween costumes. They might just create the perfect dress-up accessory to help you breathe new life into your lessons!  

Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales

1 comment:

  1. Making these learning experiences memorable is so much fun!!! These dress-up activities are easy to do. Thanks for the idea!!