In this blog post we are looking at how screen-free, ‘unplugged’ activities can help children learn in a classroom (or any other!) environment. I am probably the ‘odd one out’, as a teacher of IT and Computer Science, to believe not to give children a screen at a young age. There is plenty of time to learn how to do things and to properly learn how to use the computer, at an older age. Just because you start early, it doesn’t mean you will get good at it sooner. I believe, it is all about giving children the right learning tools, at the right age.
So, what do we mean by ‘unplugged’ activities?
‘Unplugged’ means unplugging the computer, turning off screens and engaging our children in activities without electronics. In some ways, this also means more meaningful learning and nevertheless a lot of engagement in the subject! Not to mention, unplugged activities can help children (or adults!) to retain a particular topic better, in the long-term memory. Unplugged activities mean that a lot of different type of learning is going on. Visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. We can see and hear what we are doing and work collaboratively. Talk to one an other and conduct purposeful talk! Mainly, converse about the topic that we are learning about.
Why should we do this?
Has it ever happened to you that you tried to take a tablet off a child? What did you find? Did the child abandon the tablet straight-away? No doubt, he didn’t. In my experience, I have seen a lot of frustration in connection to games on screens. Stopping an on-screen activity can be really stressful for both parents and children. Children can get frustrated and emotional whilst playing. Not to mention that often these games operate at a fast pace, with vibrant colours and loud sound effects, affecting all the senses. Children, especially younger ones, can get fully immersed in such games and stopping the game can often result in anger and frustration.
So, why are we allowing this to happen?
I often think that parents choose to give children tablets and phones as they cannot think of an alternative. If you are out and about, a small screen seems the perfect solution, isn’t it? It is ‘easy’ for a while – but unfortunately, not long-term. In this article, the advice is to avoid using electronic devices at dinner. Screens do not replace talking and conversations. Ultimately, using screens is an independent activity.
The same applies to schools and classrooms. Should we invest huge sums in equipping our children (as some schools do, from the age of 4!) with tablets? Do we use them to their full extent? Are staff fully trained and immersed in technology so that they can enable children to learn the most they can, using tablets? Are screens the best way to communicate with children what we want them to learn? Is this the only way we can fully engage children in a meaningful way? I believe, the answer is ‘no’.
Starting off with ‘unplugged’ activities
Switch off all computers and hide the tablets. Go off-line. Start thinking of the bigger picture. What would you like to teach children? How can you achieve that greater goal? Then start breaking it down into small parts. Finally, here comes the fun bit; you can find alternative ways to put the same message across to children. For instance, have you tried introducing ‘loops’ in programming by teaching children how to knit? Or using storytelling to teach sequencing in programming, following the foundational idea that programs run line by line, instruction by instruction? This great article offers ideas to teach programming through offline play.
The main message of using unplugged activities is that, to learn children need to see the bigger picture. Children need transferable skills, not skills limited to a small group of on-screen games. It’s all good with drag-and-drop activities, but how about when they actually have to do it? Can they transfer those skills to others?
Unplugged activity ideas include ‘make and build‘ or ‘make and do’, construction. Creative ideas, such as dressing up, acting out, puppets or dolls, cars are equally great. Logical games are fantastic to challenge individuals and they are a good foundation to introduce paired or group work to children. Don’t think of buying new things all the time, as often simple things make the best games. Just think of origami and kirigami, with very little resources.
How to use LOGICO PRIMO in your classroom?
The current LOGICO PRIMO range for ages 3-6 comes with 11 different learning card sets. As each set contains 16 different cards, this gives you a huge variety! LOGICO PRIMO topics include counting, letter recognition, shapes and colours, foundations of geometry, concentration games, arts and crafts, learning about daily routines, matching, sorting and sequencing. Once you have an overview of each area, select the cards which are relevant to your current topic. Or you might just want to go by the illustrations and see where the activity takes you!
It is a very good idea to combine different learning areas, as it helps children create links between what they already know and the new. Furthermore, important areas, such as literacy or mathematics, are not ‘stand-alone’, they can be linked and work together really well!
For instance, children can be learning about different traditions (such as, Easter or Christmas) and this could then lead to learning about what sort of music is played during these festivals. Then, children can solve a LOGICO PRIMO activity showing different musical instruments. After this, children could listen to some music and try picking out all the different musical instruments playing . Finally, the class could come up with a special dance routine to fit the occasion.
Each learning card is beautifully illustrated which often leads to further conversations. Children are happy to talk about what they see as this helps them reinforce what they already know. Whilst learning, we want to categorise our world and learn about how things work. This helps us understand what surrounds us and help us fit in better. Children, especially younger ones, do this all the time through both observation and physical activities.
Finki, LOGICO’s favourite bird, appears on many of the learning card sets. Children can recognise Finki and they are happy to talk about what Finki is doing on the pictures. This also includes children’s daily routines! Children can relate to this and think of their own experiences. Essentially, talking and engaging children in a purposeful conversation about their own learning, helps them improve their literacy skills. LOGICO PRIMO is aimed at a younger age group of ages 3-6 and the illustrations suit this age group really well.
Indoors or outdoors?
A huge benefit of LOGICO frames is that they are durable. They are great for both indoor and outdoor use. Each card is laminated so they wipe clean and they last.
If you are only using LOGICO in the classroom, you might want to try..
- introducing a ‘cosy corner’ where children can read or work quietly on an activity
- one table = one challenge, by providing different activities in different parts/tables of the classroom, and where children can choose their own learning
- paired activity. You can pair up children, according to their abilities, to solve LOGICO challenges. Alternatively, you might want to make use of learning partners and pair children with higher and lower abilities to coach and support each other.
- whole class LOGICO challenge. This is, of course, if you have plenty of frames on your hand! (Did you know our SALE continues?)
Which time of the day?
LOGICO is great to use any time of the day, depending on your own classroom routine. Often, when children first come into the classroom, they need some guidance and direction to settle down. Providing a range of little activities is a good way to settle children. LOGICO can be used as part of this.
Winding down time or free time. Many teachers use the idea of ‘golden time’ or free time when children can engage in an activity of their choice. LOGICO can also be used as part of this.
After school or lunchtime clubs can also be a great time to use LOGICO. Children can wind down, work on their own or with a partner. A great benefit of the LOGICO frame is that the buttons stay in place so children can leave and come back to the game later on.
Variety means opportunity for unplugged activities
Using ‘unplugged’ also means being creative and resourceful. How can we broaden our children’s learning? How can we create variety, breadth and depth?
So, try rotating toys and games, providing some variety will keep children engaged. Keep it simple and make sure that there is not too much choice and the activities are visually simple.
Knowing that tools, such as LOGICO, exist gives teachers and opportunity to create variety and engagement. Quality time above all and purposeful dialogues in the classroom.