This post is dedicated to the memory of Julien-Pier. DSC01386

My soul is aching while I write this because not only have I lost a dear friend but the world has lost an incredible person. JP taught me so much about caring for others and sharing the warmth of a smile with everyone. Most of my memories with JP involve play – making playdough instead of dinner, rushing to ride the roller-coaster at the mall, and  finding Christmas trees in Quebec City. Julien-Pier knew how important it is to have fun in life. I am devastated that I won’t be able to create more memories with him but I am going to share and cherish all of the memories that I do have.

In pre-school and kindergarten we all learn through play and curiosity and then somewhere between grade 1 and high school the play seems to disappear… Is it because we no longer learn through play? I doubt it, seeing as I still learn from playing as an adult. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the curriculum or the classroom lessons and forget about the value of play.

When I started teaching grade 8 this year I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to relate to them, that they would be a lot older than the grade 6’s and 7’s I was used to. And then I took them outside – It was the last 10 minutes of the day and we headed out to the playground. They all stood around chatting for a minute and then the next thing I knew they were running full speed at the jungle gym for a game of tag. In this moment I knew that I would be okay because they wanted to play tag, because they were excited about life, and because I knew they were still “kids.”

Last year I saw a local researcher, Gary Anaka speak at a Pro D workshop. His saying was that “if your bum is numb, so is your brain.” This has really stuck with me and I try to think about it when I plan lessons – how can I get kids moving? Sometimes it’s as simple as putting articles they need to read in different parts of the classroom so they have to walk to read them. And sometimes it’s playing active games that involve concepts we are covering.

I think incorporating play into my lessons has resulted in some of my most effective teaching moments and I wish I had done more of it this year. One lesson that stands out in particular was a review game for some of the verbs we had just learned to conjugate in French. I took them outside and we played a “four corners” type activity in between the trees. (I will try to get this game up on TeachersPayTeachers this summer!) I surprised them by making the review activity fun and active, but they surprised me by really mastering the conjugations. There was a little bit of competition and a whole lot of teamwork, but mainly there was movement and a lot of laughter.

It’s going to be my goal to incorporate play into my lessons more often, no matter what grade I am teaching. Engaged students having fun with their teacher? I think that’s how it should be.

How do you incorporate play into your lessons and activities?
Any good stories about teaching new grade levels?

Meaghan