Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learning through Play Dough

Our department head this year bought packs and packs of play dough for us to use this year.  As I took my share, I was thinking, "Man, this is great!  But how am I going to incorporate this stuff into instruction?"

I actually started using it this week with my Latin classes, but the activities could easily be done with any other language.  Here are the two activities students did with play dough.  Spoiler: they loved it!

Activity One: What's this mean?
This is a great (and fun) way to quickly check reading comprehension.  With my Latin students, they had put together a bunch of sentences - at the time, the sentences just needed to make sense grammatically.  Once they had put them together, I gave them some play dough and said they needed to pick two of them and visually represent them.  This became a way for me to check if they could decode the meaning of the sentences - did they really understand what the sentences meant, or were they just following patterns of Nominative - Verb - Direct Object.

I think this would work really well with short stories.  To show they understood the story, groups would have to pick the main scenes in the story and then construct them out of play dough.  Usually this is something I'd do with a comic strip, but this is definitely a variable alternative!

Activity Two: Depict Your Favorite Scene
Students creating the Trojan Horse
When you're doing a movie, story, listening, etc. (basically anything that involves a narrative), this is a good closing activity.  Students pick their favorite scene from the story and depict it using play dough.  They then have to explain both the scene and why it's their favorite.

Now at the higher levels, you might want to change the question from, "What's your favorite scene?" to something like, "What scene best showed the contention between the family members?"  At the end, they will still have to explain the scene and why the picked it - but this time you can add in a discussion about scenes the other groups chose.

I did this with my Latin students.  We had just talked about the Trojan War and Aeneas, so I asked them to draw their favorite scenes.  I got a lot of Trojan horses.

Dido committing suicide
I'm sure there are loads of other ways I could incorporate play dough into instruction (if students write their own stories, if students make scenes and then other groups have to describe them, etc.), but so far I only have these two under my belt.

I only have about ten small containers of play dough, but luckily this seems to work really well with groups.  Actually constructing the scenes would take too long for an individual student to do, so they divide up the work among group members.  It's great as a motivation - "If we can get through this reading, we'll be using the play dough."  I've also found that the students really enjoy playing with play dough.  It's great for tactile learners and for everyone else it's just plain old fun :)

- Frau Leonard

1 comment:

  1. Hi! You have been nominated for the Liebster award! You can see your nomination here: