Putting Play in PD

BreAnn FennellBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Innovate Better, Lead Better


  • Sometimes professional development doesn’t use the research-based teaching strategies that we know are super impactful.
  • Learn how to use play both in your classrooms and when planning professional development for colleagues. 
  • Discover four ways to merge technology and play.
  • Put the play in PD. Get excited about Teach Better 22 Conference!

Professional Development That Doesn’t Align With Research

There is nothing worse than finding out that your professional development does not follow the same guidelines that are recommended for teachers. I’ve always wondered…why do they tell us to teach one way but teach us (educators) in a different way?

What They Say vs. What They Do

Statement: Make your lesson engaging! Action: You’ll be in this room for four hours so get comfortable. Maybe bring a sweater because it’ll get chilly.

Statement: Don’t be the sage on the stage. Action: Talks at the front of the room all day.

Statement: Incorporate technology in meaningful ways. Action: Tells you to put your phones on silent and put them away.

Statement: Make your lessons individualized. Action: Uses the same slide show and handout for everyone.

Statement: Research and find the best practices. Action: Delivers the same presentation for 12 years. 

Play Can Be Powerful

I went on a search for professional development that sparked something in me that made me want to be a better educator. The Ron Clark Academy, Get Your Teach On conferences, and the Teach Better 19 Conference confirmed what I already knew: teachers need play in their professional development.

We need opportunities to try new things for ourselves, talk with others, network, listen to good music, and feel excitement as a part of our professional learning experience. Some of my most vivid memories included sliding, dancing, smiling, and papers flying.

Have you attended any conference that made you go WOW! I wish I had more of this?

The Teach Better 19 Conference confirmed what I already knew: teachers need play in their professional development. Click To Tweet

Putting Play in PD: Presenters Who Play

I was asked to present on educational technology and my first thought or hope was that they would have technology available for educators to use. “What can I control?” I thought.

I shared a game that I knew teachers could use on their phones. As soon as they walked in they went to put their phones away after checking them quickly. “Leave them out, we will be using them later.” You can learn more about the game I used here

Creating a game-based review they could also use with their students later was key. Teachers can be hesitant to use technology in their classroom that they have not used themselves because they are afraid it will go wrong. 

Putting Play in PD: WHOA! I can do that?

Educators also learned that they can incorporate technology using the standards they already need to cover. Using robots like Dash and Dot can help students understand and show their knowledge of force and motion. I had a small break-out group of teachers in the hallways learning about these robots by using them and figuring out the mission levels together.

You can use Osmo as a tool to practice math concepts as an extension of your curriculum.

If you are going to do a review for your upcoming test, you can put all that information into a Kahoot and practice and review together in a game-based setting.


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Teach Better 22

Are you an educator or presenter that wants to try some playful professional development? Bookmark https://teachbetterconference.com/ so you can submit a proposal as soon as they open! If you’ve never presented before, don’t worry, the Teach Better Team is here to support you as a first-time presenter! Did you know Teach Better 19 sold out? We want a chance to laugh, dance, and work alongside you as an educator so be sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible. Early registration will save you 100 dollars. See you there!

About BreAnn Fennell

Mrs. BreAnn Fennell is a first-grade and second-grade looping teacher in Ashland, Ohio. She has worked in both public and private settings and is passionate about providing exciting learning environments for students. Mrs. Fennell is a published author of children’s books including Play? Yay! and Choose Your Cheer. She is a mom to two energetic boys and a defender of play!