Teaching idea: using Play-Doh in my Higher Ed classes

The other day I was doing some shopping with my husband when I saw a bright and colorful pack of mini play-doh containers. My eyes lit up. I thought, “for sure I can think of some way to include this in my classes.” Of course, my husband’s first reaction was an are-you-really-going-to-buy-all-that-play-doh-for-your-classes type of reaction, but I told him I thought this would make a great activity even if I hadn’t thought of it yet, and then I put the 50 container play-doh pack in the shopping cart.

Even though I am not an elementary school teacher anymore, I believe many of the activities used with younger children could be adapted for older ones and for adults. I don’t believe in the “I’m too old for this” approach towards learning, especially when it comes to using different resources for teaching and ways to develop creativity. I mean, who didn’t love creating things with play-doh? I know I did!

So here are some ideas I came up with to use it in my classes:

Using Play-doh for teaching about growth mindset

In an English didactics class I taught for English teachers at an MA program, we saw a couple of lessons on growth mindset. One of the activities requires my students to think of how they would teach their own students about growth mindset by using play-doh. I gave each one of them a play-doh container. The only instruction was that they had to come up with a lesson for their own students where growth mindset was embedded. Each of them had a different teaching context; as a result, they came up with very different ideas involving collaborative work, speaking, using adjectives, reflecting and using analogies.

Some made creations with their play-doh as they planned their lesson, and others just held it in their hands with the same purpose.

Here are some of the things they came up with:

  

I was very surprised by the level of creativity and deep connections made within each of their lessons!

 

As a way to push my own creativity, here is the activity I came up with. In my growth mindset activity, I would ask my students to make a flower. Each petal represents something they want to continue growing in their mindset. This would be for a show-and-tell type of activity. This became the inception of a worksheet I created for growth mindset goals which I used later on in the same course.

 

Using Play-doh for introducing yourself

Another idea I tried out with my Public Speaking students at university was for them to make something with play-doh that represented a part of who they were. They were each given a small play-doh container and they were given 10 minutes to come up with a creation. Then, each one of them was asked to introduce themselves through that creation. Some students struggled with the activity more than others. I even had one say “this is so hard, I can’t think of anything I could create”. I encouraged them to use their imagination and assured them it was not a talent contest. It was about using their creativity to talk about themselves in a different way and any creation would be equally valued.

Here are some photos of what they did:

 

Using Play-doh to practice grammar and speaking

I have also included play-doh in in-class flip stations. Here is an example of instructions I used for students to practice the use of past tense in a speaking task.

So there you have it. Some ideas to use Play-doh with your students. If you find them useful or would like to share other ideas, please leave your comment.

 

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