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Five Childhood Activities That Support A Healthy Start To School

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Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, who's not ready holler I. Even though we are never really "ready" starting the school year, in a healthy way, is easier than multiplying by five. Speaking of five here are five ways you can make your school more fun than a childhood game of hide and seek.

Jump Your Bike:

Do you remember jumping your bike off of the curb? Do you remember building a jump with a board and some bricks. Taking risks is a key component of a healthy childhood and a healthy classroom. It is important to remember that when you stop being scared of what is happening at the beginning of the year, you are playing it too safe. This year I fully embraced my fear and used it to create an opening activity for my students to learn how to face their own fears. Even if you are delivering professional development, you must embrace your fear. My good friend  @clong ​ says that "if you are sure of how everything will go, you didn't stack those bricks high enough."

I Spy:

The fun part of playing I Spy was that the participant got to ask all the questions. Instead of teachers giving lists or study guides full of questions, turn the table. Use a question focus as that "I spy with my eyes" object and have the students use a strategy like the Question Formulation Technique to create their own essential questions to the topic that you are sharing with the class.

When students are in charge of asking their own questions, engagement and a feeling of connection with the topic go way up.

Let's Play House:

Every house, every class, should have places to play. Notice I said a place to play, not a certain item to play with. Stop worrying if you have the right chairs, tables, markers, whiteboards, tablets etc... creativity doesn't require freedom, it craves constraint. In my childhood home in Huntington Beach we had two drawers filled with old clothes and hats. We never complained about what clothes were in the drawers, we just mixed and matched and finally dressed my brother in my mother's old dress. We had so much fun we almost choked on our laughter. Create spaces to play, but don't worry about the items in those spaces.

Let Your Students Build A Cootie Catcher (Paper Fortune Teller)

Remember these?


My students couldn't wait to show this to me after class.

I love videos. I love videos that show students being alone can be a good thing. I love videos that share how life itself is inspiring. But my favorite video is the one I haven't seen yet. What made cootie catchers so fun is that everyone made them differently and you couldn't wait to see what they had written underneath the final flaps. There should be a space in your Canvas classroom where students can share videos and websites that inspire them, that made them think differently, that made them laugh, that put them in a mood. Use this space to "catch" new learning material that students can enjoy for years to come.

Hide And Seek:

Ah yes, the most classic of games, whether you played Hide and Seek or Kick The Can, the magic always lay in finding a great hiding spot, where no one could find out and then popping out at just the right time. Where are there spaces in your Canvas classroom where it seems like you have disappeared. I love leaving the chat option active and then rarely visiting it. Students think they have found a secret hiding spot and share some pretty fun stuff. But this important concept is best seen in your approach to teaching and learning. How can you remove yourself from the the traditional role of direct instruction and give your students agency in their own learning and creation. You should be considering that every summer as you get ready to PLAY with your learners.

Learner II

I really like this post dtheriault​​.

What I found most interesting and has me pondering is your question "Where are there spaces in your Canvas classroom where it seems like you have disappeared?"

I think this is important to be mindful of, because teachers can easily overlook this because it's not a daily task, it's a long term cultivation. However, when you see evidence of "sprouting" in a discussion topic started by a student or in the chat window you truly see student-centered​ authentic​ learning.

I know many teachers want to disable the chat feature in Canvas as one of the very first things they do in setting up a new course. Perhaps they've had a bad experience in using this or maybe they are trying to avoid having one. What advice would you give to teachers in light of this?


In the past I've had students draw inappropriate drawings on paper. I've never taken paper away.

In the past, I've had students throw pencils across the room. I've never taken pencils away.

In the past, I've had student write inappropriate things in their textbook. I've never taken textbooks away.

In the past, I've had student write a horrible word on their desk. I've never taken desks away.

Treat the behavior, not the media or medium. The chat tool shows the student name. It would be very easy to take a screen shot and write a referral and send it to the office. I think most students are smart enough to figure this out. Don't take away a useful timely communication tool... because of the past.

Community Member

Too often, great tools are confidently labeled a distraction, and the argument seems valid to many, but as you pointed out above, treat the behavior. Sure, there will be some issues, but when are there ever not issues. Inappropriate behaviors are opportunities to teach, so teach. I think I'll un-hide the chat feature right now!

Community Team
Community Team

Creativity doesn't require freedom, it craves constraint.

I'm so glad you said this. We studied this very concept in a Canvas Network course on films noir  (A Brief Guide to Oulipo)​ and it is applicable to any genre at any age.

Your words about addressing the behavior and not the medium are so powerful, and I've saved them for later use. Thanks for a great blog post!

Community Coach
Community Coach

Love this!


Thanks for your comment. I'm going to save your comment to show my students when we talk about what a good comment looks like. You were specific and you added new information and made connections. Thanks.

Community Team
Community Team


^my reaction^

^not an example I'd hold up to students^

Community Member

Thank you for an insightful post, dtheriault​. Like  @clong ​, the following statement also resonated with me:

Where are there spaces in your Canvas classroom where it seems like you have disappeared.

I teach 100% online (to keep my Canvas chops up-to-speed, but also because I love to teach, as well... like most of us in the community). And this year I'm also leveraging the chat tool more regularly just to see what happens. Smiley Happy

Also, creating play-spaces in a fully online course can be challenging... but I'm often inspired by the craftiness of K12 schools (I teach in higher ed) to design courses that change throughout the semester (so students don't see the same thing every time they log in). This inspired the CanvasLIVE​ session STUDY HALL: Canvas In Season​ for some creative ideas to keep courses fun and flexible.

Great blog!!