Why Your Students Need To Play

Smart Classroom Management: Why Your Students Need To PlayFirst-time visitors to SCM are often drawn to articles that deal with boundaries.

They want to know how to set limits and hold students accountable.

They’re looking for rules and consequences, borders and constraints.

They want to gain control and begin reining in an unruly class.

We’re happy to cover these topics.

They’re important, to be sure.

Having firm boundaries is the bedrock upon which you build a well-behaved class.

But they’re only a small part of effective classroom management.

I can’t emphasize this enough.

Many teachers assume that if they can find the perfect set of rules and consequences, then all of their problems will disappear.

But the truth is, there is no magic in the classroom management plan itself.

The magic is in making it meaningful to your students.

Your rules and consequences have to matter to them. Otherwise, they won’t provide the leverage you need to have the dream class you really want.

The secret to attaining that leverage, which can be defined as the wonderful feeling of knowing your students will behave as you wish, is to create a learning experience they love being part of.

This is a core principle here at SCM.

It’s so deeply ingrained in our philosophy and approach, in fact, that nearly all of the 400+ articles on this site either directly or indirectly deal with this topic.

One of the easiest and most rewarding ways to accomplish this is to include more opportunities for play.

Play is an area that is severely lacking in most classrooms, but it’s critical to your students’ social and academic development.

Kids need play—and so do adults—every day.

Play develops creativity more effectively than any other teaching method. It improves emotional, cognitive, and physical health and teaches students how to be curious self-starters and tenacious problem-solvers.

It readily pulls students into a state of flow, which is proven to be among the most pleasurable human experiences—where time distorts, awareness heightens, and engrossment becomes so intense that they get lost in the moment.

Play can also calm frayed nerves, stop racing and obsessive thoughts, and even cure anxiety.

Done right, and within an classroom with clearly defined and faithfully defended boundaries, it can allow you to ask virtually anything of your class—polite behavior, rapt attentiveness, perfect routines—and get it.

Not only do students appreciate opportunities for play, and will bend over backward to reciprocate your encouragement of it, but it prepares them for high-level independent work.

It keeps them fresh, present, and intrinsically motivated.

So how do you bring more play into your classroom and without it being viewed as “free” play?

Get your students up and moving.

Have them act out or demonstrate whatever they’re learning. Ask them to build, fix, direct, explore, model, present, make, assemble, and exhibit.

Head outside for lessons. Recreate literary scenes, current events, or moments in history. Assign open-ended projects that free your students to use their imagination and color outside the lines.

Turn two-dimensional concepts into three-dimensional works of art.

No, you don’t have to do it every hour. Short periods of play sprinkled here and there go a long way toward providing that certain esprit de corps.

That essence that makes your classroom different and special and bigger than its individual members.

One your students can’t wait to get to every day.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

, ,

19 Responses to Why Your Students Need To Play

  1. Scott September 16, 2017 at 8:02 am #

    Excellent article, Michael. It applies universally, as you say, to kids and adults. I used to teach computer programming (a very dry subject matter) to large groups of adults, and the reason I could get people into it was adding the element of play to the curriculum.

    • Michael Linsin September 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      Thanks Scott!

  2. C September 16, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    Great article!

    • Michael Linsin September 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      Thank you, C!

  3. Lee September 16, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    YES! Last week, I was modeling writing about a birthday surprise which included a Justin Timberlake concert, so we jumped up and danced to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” midlesson. Happy kids and a happy teacher!

    BTW — no need to repost my comment!

    • Michael Linsin September 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      Way to go, Lee!

  4. Toni September 16, 2017 at 9:37 am #

    Thank you for the great ideas.

    • Michael Linsin September 16, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

      You’re welcome, Toni.

  5. Kaydeen September 16, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    This will surely be of great help.Good article.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2017 at 7:30 am #

      Thanks Kaydeen.

  6. Rita September 17, 2017 at 12:57 am #

    Now I teach MFL to adults and they clearly enjoy the games and the same activities I used to play with children. In fact, they even enjoy them more than the kids. So I have classes full of 40 year old plus people, even in their 50s and 60s, whom I managed to turn into children. Sometimes I even have to settle them after a fun role play which is funny.

    Thanks, Michael, for the reassurance play is helpful and useful in all ages.

    • Michael Linsin September 17, 2017 at 7:30 am #

      You’re welcome, Rita. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Joni September 17, 2017 at 11:06 am #

    Hi, I once observed as a student teacher a grade 1 class, where the principal’s voice came on over the intercom, and led a regular weekly announcement, which then ended in a impromptu dance request to the students as well:
    Here’s how it went…:

    (Principal) : (Note her voice over the intercom, and heard in each classroom):

    “hi, Boys and Girls, good to see you today and this week! Fall is coming soon; so make sure you bring your coats with you soon.!!.. Ok, AND….. the song title for this week’s dance request begins with the letter “C”.. Ok, here we go, ladies and gentleman: “The letter “c” stands for: “Can’t Touch This! .”… so, let’s bust a move, children ! (note: suddenly, “Can’t Touch This Song” from MC Hammer comes on, and is piped over the same intercom into all the classrooms, with the kids all going crazy; laughing, dancing, etc.
    Great tool to get the creative juices flowing !

  8. Melissa September 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    I love your posts and would like to purchase a book, but I’m not sure which one would be best. I teach middle school journalism as an elective. I struggle with classroom management. Some of my obstacles are large class sizes (40), being in a trailer outside, no duty for lunch detention (so I have trouble knowing if my students fulfilled it), and cultural differences (I am white and teach mostly black and hispanic students. I know my quiet, calm, friendly demeanor is not something my students associate with a leader or authority figure). I find myself getting frustrated when consequences do not work and tryil to invent new consequences, or do things like after school detention that put more work on me. It is often difficult to get in touch with parents, though the ones I talk to usually take it seriously. I do not have problems with anything serious like fights, but getting and keeping my student’s attention (and keeping them on task) is a struggle. I am interrupted frequently during teaching.

    • Michael Linsin September 19, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      Hi Melissa,

      I think The Happy Teacher Habits might be the best book for you.


  9. Concerned teacher September 20, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    Hi Michael urgent question for tomorrow if you get a moment. what do you do with a “difficult student” that you have a good relationship with but they called you out when you gave them a consequence but then made a mistake and let another student get away with something similar and just have them a “reminder”. I know i was wrong and made a mistake and am not afraid to apologize about my mistake because I have read all your articles about those students and know they need to be able to trust me but he kept making comments about it that didn’t bother me but isn’t it disrespectful to make comments about your teacher such as “you’re just like every other teacher you give me check marks and nobody else” . Honestly I don’t give him a lot and I like him a lot . He’s just so aware of it which you always talk about so I get it. But I had to then go tell him he had a SIR ( kind of like a warning for the school ) for being disrespectful to an adult in the cafeteria as well as making comments about me. But I think he was just frustrated with my mistake as he should be. Now I don’t know if his comments about me were disrespectful because he just seemed upset with me is all. I want to talk to him tomorrow but don’t know what to say. Thanks so much

    • Michael Linsin September 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm #


      Acknowledge that you were wrong, you made a mistake, and it won’t happen again. Apologize for it and then move on more committed than ever to be consistent regardless of who is misbehaving.



  1. Brain Breaks 101 – POSITIVELY FRENCH - September 16, 2017

    […] Here is a post on the importance of adding play in class: Michael Linsin […]

  2. Diigo Links (weekly) | Mr. Gonzalez's Classroom - September 18, 2017

    […] Why Your Students Need To Play – Smart Classroom Management […]