George Lucas Educational Foundation

Creating joyful, productive classrooms

Creating joyful, productive classrooms

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Kids' lives outside of school are serious enough. Our classrooms need to be places where kids learn, but also where they laugh. Please share ideas for creating classrooms that are both fun and productive for students and you, and check out my new post, Lighter Classroom Atmosphere, Tighter Classroom Management, for an idea that did this for my students and me.

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

I completely agree that schools need to take time to have students play and enjoy life as well as learning. Many of the schools that I have visited around the country that are focused on social and emotional learning tend to emphasize the time for play and in fact, it actually translates to more productive learning time.

Here's one of my favorite blogs on the power of play: "Expert Advice: Make More Time for Play" :

Holly Willis's picture
Holly Willis
Former Social Media Marketing Assistant at Edutopia

What a great question! I found the angle that Elana brought up about play especially interesting, so I threw it out to our Twitter community to get a bit more conversation going. Here are some of their responses:

We want to know: Do you think play is essential to learning? #edchat #pblchat #ntchat

Sarah B: Play one of the natural ways to learn. Born ready.
Tricia C: My 2nd grader wrote an essay on "Why recess?": Fresh Air, make friends, fun - important in learning!
Nicholas V: Play, games, edutainment, fun is what makes learning stick. If people enjoy when they learn, it's deep learning.
Mary K: The research is clear that it is extremely important; but there are huge misperceptions in the public that it is not "productive".
Thomas R: Play is essential to learning and shouldn't be viewed as mutually exclusive of another. It is a catalyst for creativity/innovation.

I hope this helps!


Sue Stinson's picture
Sue Stinson
8th grade Family and Consumer Science Teacher from South Jersey

Since laughter truly helps reduce our stress levels I have found it helps me as well as my students to laugh daily. I make it a point to have a "joke of the day"... the cornier the better! Thank goodness for my kindle and the free downloadable "kids" joke books. Make sure to keep the jokes school appropriate !

Jo Lewis's picture
Jo Lewis
Co-founder of Willow Education

In my classroom we have a joke hat (it looks like a duck sitting on your head, complete with wings and long skinny legs!) that anyone can pick up at any time if they have a joke to share.
We also have a bank of videos that make us laugh (and in a class of 8 - 13year olds that's quite diverse) including the animation of the Wonky Donkey song.
Our absolute favourite at the moment is "Where the h*** is Matt 2012?" from YouTube, which is impossible to watch without wanting to join in - singing or dancing at our own choice - and without having a huge smile on your face.
these light-hearted moments in our class routines are not classic "play" but are playful in the midst of focused learning and as such are a good way to boost endorphins, bond as a community and take a five minute brain break before continuing.
Play, playfulness and finding humour are essential elements in our learning environment. It helps learning to "stick"!

Ruchita Parat's picture
Ruchita Parat
US Hindi Foundation organizes interactive and exciting summer camps for kid

Yes, it is true that we should make class rooms enjoyable for students. In my class room, we make sure it is fun and we also ensured that toddlers can learn necessary things.
In early stage, toddlers can learn double than the youngsters. So, we try our best to teach them new and knowledgeable things which remains with them for life time.

analeis onairos's picture

I think the game is essential in education, it is important not to focus more on the game and lose sight of the purpose of the same purpose or objective. We must be constantly directing the educational goal. For example if a child is asked to trim a number one (1) paper to learn to recognize this number and the child is very young, perhaps in order to become the skill of cutting and miss learning the number one (1). We then use that master games to bring children learning through play laexperiencia.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Senior Editor at Large

We are going to be publishing a blog post in the next few days that covers how play can help improve standardized test scores too. There is all kinds of research about the brain in "flow" state that enables it to learn and retain information. John Medina's Brain Rules is a great place to start.

Melanie's picture
Preschool Teacher, North Carolina

David, you mentioned school is too serious for students and that there needs to be learning and laughter in a classroom. I completely agree with you on this. I teach preschool and I strongly believe the creative curriculum that my school uses gives my students the chance to learn and play. I am currently working for the Head Start program and I can see how much my students are learning while they are playing. Not only are my students playing with friends for fun, they are learning as well. For example, in the housekeeping area (which is always the center to be in) students are learning how to set the table, how to fold/hang clothes and how to sort dishes/food by colors and certain categories. There is a lot of fun in my classroom along with laughter and learning.

Mike Procyk's picture
Mike Procyk
Band teacher from Bowling Green, Ohio

I think this goes along with with the findings that keep coming up which state that kids who participate in the music program do better in schools. I think a big part of this success is the aspect of actively doing something they enjoy. They don't call it 'playing' an instrument for nothing.

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