Late night wonderings about play, memory, and spontaneity

Why do we remember tiny details about the games we play, but can rarely recall details about worksheets we’ve completed?

Is it just a matter of how invested we are in the present activity?

Is it because our bodies are more engaged when we play?

Is it because no one wants to hear stories about the worksheets we’ve filled out, but will gladly swap stories about games? Is that why we remember them…so that we can retell them?

Play has a kind of order and structure to it, one that lends itself to good stories. There is sequence. There is cause and effect. But there is also chaos, which make things very interesting.

Do we remember the things we learn when we play because there is an element of surprise, there is excitement in not knowing what comes next?

How can we create an environment in our schools that feels more like real life?

Completing a series of worksheets, readings, and tests feels so contrived. Like a sad little shadow of life. But how can play and surprise take on a role in our learning process without introducing complete chaos?

How do we as educators create the balance between spontaneity and structure?

Ah, the things that keep me up at night.


3 thoughts on “Late night wonderings about play, memory, and spontaneity”

  1. I don’t have the complete science-y answer to this, but a lot of memory has to do with emotions. Playtime releases all sorts of fun hormones that make you happy, and for the most part requires more attention, meaning you will not only be focused because you want to win/do well but you’ll enjoy it and thus remember it better. In contrast worksheets are usually mundane and require repeating the same steps/following directions with no change, so you can give it less attention. Also, you’re right, nobody wants to hear about that boring old worksheet πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for your comment! It’s so nice to know someone reads my late-night ramblings. πŸ™‚

      Tonight I’ve been considering focusing my research on games as teaching tools. Playing a game is like being given permission to enter an alternate reality…but a reality none-the-less. We are given permission to pretend/not pretend that we are vicious, silly, sneaky, brave, etc. These pretendings might give us the experience/courage we need to actually become those things (or keep us from becoming those things!). I LOVE playing games with people because we learn so much about each other through play. (And I especially enjoyed your post !)

  2. No worries it was my pleasure reading it. I’m glad you liked all those silly games! I have been getting a full dosage of Your Team lately. While it’s kind of on a different path, I know of a Ted Talk that kind of ties into your comment. This woman was promoting the idea that video games are good for children because it builds their self esteem and allows them to be someone they’re not, allowing them to accomplish goals and follow directions, etc. I have no clue how to find it but if you could use the clues of video games being good for you I’m sure you’ll find it, it was really interesting

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