Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Why Play Should Be Part of Every Lesson: Pedagogy

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Classroom Practice - Why Play Should Be Part of Every Lesson: Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Students can use imagination, drama and make-believe in all subjects to explore concepts and reinforce their learning.

Most teachers recognise that, far from being the study break some students believe it to be, play is actually a key tool in the learning process, enabling children to explore new things, to make and learn from mistakes, and to expand their understanding of topics being taught.

However, while recognising the benefits of play, teachers can often be deaf to using it in the classroom amid the clamour of methodologies and practices at their disposal. It can also be difficult to know when it should be used. The good news is that play is a more flexible tool than some teachers may think.

A great way of using play is through drama activities, and these can be included in any topic and subject. Two really useful games are freeze- frame and character role-play. In each case, students play with ideas and information through the physical tools that drama provides.

Freeze-frame works as follows: each student or group of students has to create a dramatic tableau depicting an action that has been stopped midway through. This is like pressing the pause button when watching a DVD. You can model this for students by freezing yourself midway through an action such as a golf swing or a tennis shot.

To put this in to a lesson, ask the students to form groups of three to five. Explain that you want them to create a freeze-frame demonstrating one aspect of their learning or based around a key idea from that day's lesson. You could also give a range of ideas that will be included in later lessons and use the freeze-frame as an introduction. When this is done, ask half the class to assess the other half's freeze-frames and work out what they are portraying. Encourage discussion, then get the two sides to swap roles.

Freeze-frames assist students in understanding and questioning the themes of the lesson. Character role-play prompts a similar level of engagement and is most suited to lessons where students have to explore the thoughts, actions or beliefs of one or more individuals.

Using character role-play in lessons requires the teacher to produce a set of cards giving information about one or more characters relevant to the topic being taught. These can be specific individuals, such as Joan of Arc, or representative of a group, such as a 19th-century Russian peasant.

You can use the cards in a number of ways. First, you can split the class into groups and give one student in each group a card. That student then has to act the role spelled out on the card while the others ask questions to guess who is being impersonated. You could run this on a larger scale by giving every student in the class a card and challenging each one to guess the characters being impersonated around them.

The second method is a guessing game between pairs. Each student has a card and each gets one question at a time to try to guess the identity of the character their partner is acting out. Whoever guesses correctly first, wins.

Of course, the role does not have to be character-based but can be one that encourages certain ways of acting - for example, a student could play the role of interviewer, researcher or debater.

In taking on the role of interviewer, students will think, act and interact in specific ways they believe befit an interviewer. This is beneficial because it encourages the student to think in a different way, learning and making progress as they go.

The same applies when you ask a student to act the role of a researcher. If you gear the activity in a way that sufficiently mimics the real-life research process of scientists, the students are likely to take on the role in a more engaged way, conducting research in a manner that is suited to the role, taking into account the scientific world view and the motives that underpin scientific research. …

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