Child Development

Have You Used Play-Doh In Your Middle School Classroom?

I tell my students, it’s when you step out of your comfort zone that the magic happens. Click To Tweet
On the first day of school, after just a brief introduction to my students, I used a modified version of Heather’s hyperdoc. I started by sharing the story of Play-Doh via video clip from the movie “How Do You Know”, ending with the line, “We’re all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.” Watch the clip here.
I then gave every student a tub of Play-Doh, and told them to make something that symbolized themselves.
That’s it.
My AVID 8th graders just stared at me like I was nuts. They carefully lifted off the lid, a few taking a sniff. I watched as they poked and pushed at it until it came out of the tub.

Then they mostly sat there, looking around to see what the other kids were doing.

After a bit, I told them to just start squishing it, or rolling it, or smacking it.
That was a good way to see who needed to get some aggression out.
After awhile, they started to get into it. They giggled a bit, talked with their group members, and when they finished and I took their photo they smiled sheepishly, but agreed.
The AVID 9th graders were a different story. They completely bought in from the moment I mentioned Play-Doh. They excitedly began forming creatures, flattened surfaces and etched names, wadded the clay up and made something new, laughed and giggled and basically thought it was the best first day EVER!
What I loved so much about this activity was watching the kids each react so differently to the experience. I was able to wander around the class, listening and chatting and asking questions. I saw who was introverted and extroverted, who was artistic and who struggled. I watched who got easily frustrated and who was able to take multiple approaches. Perfectionists definitely stood out, as did the risk takers.
Sometimes we all need to remember that our middle school students are really just little kids in big bodies Click To Tweet
And you know what? Not ONE piece of Play-Doh was thrown. Every cap made it back on, and not even a speck got onto the carpeting. The kids respected the spirit of the activity, and while some may have left wondering what they were in for during the rest of the year, most of them are still begging to play with Play-Doh and make something much more advanced like stop motion movies.
Sometimes we all need to remember that our middle school students are really just little kids in big bodies, looking for themselves and paying attention to what adults are paying attention to them. If you haven’t tried using Play-Doh in your middle school classroom, give it a try. What’s the worst thing that can happen? And you might just learn a few things about your students that you’d never know from giving a lecture.

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