The buzz today is all about using play time to learn. No more worksheets… No more lectures… Let’ the kids play. While I couldn’t agree more, there are some mistakes we can make in doing this.
I have always tried to incorporate games, experiments, crafts, and activities into the learning process to keep my students engaged. I’m easily bored myself by sitting and listening to someone talk about something I don’t have any interest in, but I love to play games, so it only made sense to me to play games with my students. The problem area I have come to realize is that sometimes the mound of skills I want to teach become my focus. Yes, I still play games with my students, but I think what is missing sometimes is just the pure joy of just “playing the game.”
I found an old fishing game in my teaching boxes as I was going through things while at the house and thought I would bring it along as a fun activity on the trip. I gave Caleb and Lily Anne each a fishing pole, scattered the fish around the campsite, and showed them how to “catch” a fish. It was fun! We laughed together as he caught fish and then threw them in the air to do it again. We all just played.
Was there learning going on? Absolutely, but it wasn’t specifically any standard or concept I had an agenda to teach. It was just learning through play. Sometimes that’s all we need to do… play.
That said, this is an oldie but a goodie activity. Even so, after a while, I could see that just playing with the fish wasn’t as engaging as our first experience. That’s when I started adding some challenge to it. I would asking him what color fish he caught and how many fish he’d caught so far to practice counting. I’d ask him to get me 3 red fish or find one that was the color of a pumpkin. With a dry erase marker, you can challenge your students with a variety of skills as listed below.
For example, for addition practice, you could write addition facts on the fish and flip them upside down so the facts are not visible. Students catch fish and solve the facts. You could write addition facts on some fish and answers on others. Flip the fish upside down and have students flip 2 fish over during a turn trying to find matches. You could even, have students catch fish for a given time (30 seconds). Then, they can write an addition problem for what they caught and even an addition story. (I caught 4 blue fish and 7 red fish. Altogether I caught 11 fish. 4 + 7 = 11)
Be creative and have fun with this activity or any other activity you choose to play with your students, but don’t forget to just let them play. Don’t skip that moment where they can just have fun. Those are learning moments too even if there’s not a specific standard attached to what you’re doing.
Have a blessed learning journey,