If you’re like me, you often struggle with bringing joy into the classroom in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s wasting time away from academic work. A popular strategy is playing a game that reviews previously learned content in preparation for a test or quiz. But what if we thought about the time spent doing “non-academic” stuff in a different way? 

Is there an academic benefit to taking time to teach students the value of taking risks in a playful way?

(photo credit: blogspot.com)

(photo credit: blogspot.com)


Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg writes in Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings:

  • Children can only take positive steps when they have the confidence to do so. They gain confidence when they have solid reasons to believe they are competent.
  • Children can’t gain genuine confidence without experiencing their own competence. They have to manage challenges to know whether they are able to succeed.
  • Confidence is especially critical to children because it is necessary to navigating childhood and adolescence successfully and safely. That journey involves taking risks at every step of the way…Without solid confidence, children won’t take risks. If they have an unrealistic, hollow, sense of confidence, they may take chances recklessly. But authentic confidence…(means children) are more likely to persevere and have an optimistic outlook instead of feeling passive or powerless.

So, academic growth requires students to take intellectual risks and to persevere on difficult tasks. Children who experience success on a challenge are more likely to persevere. That got me thinking about creating a classroom culture that is ripe for the type of intellectual risk-taking and growth that so many of us want to see.

1) Create a playful challenge during the first week of school that requires students to step outside their comfort zone but still experience success. Make a silly face in front of the class. Do a silly dance. Make a silly noise.

2) Ask students to write about the experience and what they learned from taking a riskAsk them to identify what strategy they used to help them overcome the challenge.

3) Celebrate everyone’s success at completing it by doing something silly yourself, or invite a very strict disciplinarian-type administrator into your classroom to do it!

Try it out and let us know how it goes.

(photo credit: righttoplay.com)

(photo credit: righttoplay.com)