“Play-based learning” is a term most often associated with early childhood programs and preschool teaching philosophies, but high school students can also benefit from adding some playful dimensions to the way they tackle the whirlwind of exams at the end of the school year. This time of year, many students are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. A return to play-based learning can keep students fresh and engaged as they tackle large quantities of material. You may ask, naturally, how this playfulness might happen. Isn’t doing work the opposite of playing?
When you are studying for an upcoming exam, think of how you feel when you realize you have worked for several hours, but still have a lot of material to review and learn. You may be losing energy and focus, dreading having to keep plowing through the material or taking yet another practice test to review. One way to keep yourself engaged is to remember that there are different methods of note-taking, knowledge-building, and concept-learning. If one way is feeling monotonous and stale, change it up!
- Try representing the material in a new way, like making a chart instead of an outline.
- Try drawing a concept map or a flow chart instead of just taking more notes.
- Try reading the material out loud to a recording device, to a friend or family member, or maybe even to your cat.
- Try making a poster that solidifies and expresses the material you’re trying to learn in a way that helps you digest, understand, and remember it. (You can even try hanging the poster in your bathroom across from the toilet. I promise that in only a few days you will remember everything on the poster!)
The point is that playing with the material you must learn and translating it into different formats helps you master important information in a way that is more fun. Playing with different study methods and experimenting with learning modalities also has a good chance of increasing your scores or grades.
If you are really serious about playing with the material, you can even do what I did when I was a high-schooler studying for the AP Biology exam: I designed a board game, called “The Upward Spiral,” based on questions from prior tests. I invited my whole AP Biology class to my house to play the game, and everyone came. We ate food, played the game, and laughed, and I think that our test scores were higher for it. I know that I scored a 5, so it certainly worked for me!