In my previous blog I identified 3 things that play can do to help bring university students to a place where they are ready to learn:

  1. Play can help people bond with each other; to relax in each other’s company
  2. Play can energise and awaken people
  3. Play can focus people

In this blog I’m going to focus on energising and awakening. This semester I have to teach a lecture series at 9am on Monday mornings. I can pretty much guarantee that a significant proportion of my students will not be fully alert and ready to work at that time. Also in my afternoon classes I encounter post-lunch slumps and during our long semesters a fatigue that all the lecturers recognise sets in about 2/3 of the way through the term. Again, there are root causes of these things that need to also be addressed (noisy student accommodation, a habit of not eating breakfast etc) but 5 minutes of play can do so much to energise and enliven people, whether it be at the start of a 9am lecture or half way through a 3 hour class

Play to Energise

Thumb Wars

Thumb wars are a short, fun game that can be played in lecture halls or other contexts where people are sitting down. You can play with a partner or, after a warm up of that, it can be fun to play against two people at once, interlocking your fingers to do this. It is good to remind people with this game to be careful to not get overexcited and hurt each other.

Paper Scissors Stone

If I want people to do a pair exercise where each has a different role, I sometimes get them to play paper scissors stone (in a best of 3) to decide who should have which role. Or obviously it can be played just for fun.

Circle Clapping Games

In a room where a group can stand in a circle, it can be great to play circle clapping games to energise the group. Zip Zap Boing is very popular – you can see the rules here

Another game I really like is where a clap is passed around the circle but each person must turn and face the person next to them, make eye contact and they clap together and this clap is passed around the circle. Once this has been established (it can take a while to get used to clapping at exactly the same time but this can create a real complicity) you can add a rule where the receiver of the clap can choose to clap a second time (and the person who has passed the clap to them must clap with them) and then the direction of the clap changes. A third rule can then be introduced where the clap can be passed across the circle – you just need to get the eye contact of the person you are passing it to to make sure you can clap together.

Running Games

Running games can also energise (as long as they are not played for too long). Any of the variations on Tag can work for this, as can other games. Two of my personal favourites include Ship Ahoy (my students love being pirates) and Giants, Wizards and Elves

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Dan Barnard is a Senior Lecturer in the the School of Arts and Creative Industries at London South Bank University. He specialises in teaching acting technique, particularly the Stanislavski System of acting. He also teaches devising contemporary performance, which links closely to his own professional practice as Artistic Director of fanSHEN theatre company. His research and professional practice focuses on interactive performance and the field of performance and ecology.