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It’s well-known that we learn far more when we are having fun and enjoying an activity than when we are feeling pressured or bored by a burdensome task. Unfortunately as students move on from primary education and into secondary education, school play is frequently pushed to the margins. This is often a result of dwindling resources, a lack of space and a notion that by the end of key stage 2 learning through play isn’t a priority anymore when exams and grade boundaries are looming on the horizon.

So here is a list of ideas originally published on The Guardian Teaching Network by Tim Taylor that might encourage your primary and secondary students to learn through play:

Exploring ideas, events and attitudes from another person’s point of view

The Iceni people of the settlement are faced with a dilemma: hide their Queen (Boudicca) or hand her over to the Roman army.

Evaluating different choices

The Titanic is beginning to sink and the captain knows there are not enough lifeboats for everyone on board. What is he going to do? His officers wait for their orders.

Dealing with conflict, making difficult decisions and coping with threats            

A team of landscape gardeners are given the job of building a memorial garden for a giant who was once selfish, but died a reformed character. Not everyone in the local community is happy about the plans.

Looking into authority, power and responsibility

The class has captured a wolf, who has been threatening three little pigs. He is in a cage in the basement of our office and we can see him on our CCTV. What should we do with him? He looks bedraggled and unhappy and we’re worried he has a family to feed.

Researching and applying knowledge

An archaeology team are about to open an ancient Roman security box that has been buried for two thousand years. What will they find inside? Students use classroom resources, topic-books, websites and pre-prepared information sheets to create the contents of the box.

Building “ethical selves”

A climber is trapped high up on a mountain, she has a broken leg and the weather is getting progressively worse. The mountain rescue team (represented by the students) consider the risks of coming to her aid.

Civic responsibility

Settlers arrive in a new land and search for a place to build a community. They discuss the best options geographically and decide on a set of rules and how to enforce them. They are faced with many challenges – famine, storms, invaders, wild-animals, illness and disease.

Developing critical thinking and problem solving

A team of explorers parachute onto an unexplored island. They spend their first night on the beach sleeping in tents and are woken up in the middle of the night by strange and terrifying noises coming from the jungle. What should they do in the morning?

Understanding processes

Students build a model of an animal park in the classroom and are given various problems they need to resolve in order for the park to work effectively.

Improving storytelling

A team of storytellers offer to help Queen Scheherazade by creating a new and exciting story each night to entertain her terrifying husband the King of Persia.

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