MAGICAL ELEVATOR - A Portal Into Playful Teaching

Travel the world.  Go back in time and forward to the future.  Venture to new lands.  And don’t leave the room…

Teach your students about science, history, and make your literature come to life.  All you need is masking tape and a will to play!

Like most of our theater games, Magic Elevator takes a real-world-reality that kids are familiar with (getting in an elevator) and transforms it into a gateway for imaginative thinking.  

The rules of regular magical elevators apply:  You get in, select a floor number, press a button, go up or down and then get out on the desired floor.  

What we do is tease out each one of those steps.  Floors can be any number (-20, 798, infinity? great!), the buttons can make the sound of the land you are going to, and then when you get out on the floor, you have to make sure you are dressed appropriately (Scuba gear? Spacesuits?  Ballgowns? Just reach up and grab it!) And then the real game begins.  

Students are released into the land and have to accomplish a mini-adventure or quest.  The idea is to have a looming threat that adds drama and pressure.   Tie this into the classroom work so that kids are interactively connecting with academic content in a way that is visceral and dramatic.   To reinforce a science lesson, have students categorize cards of carnivores and herbivores quickly before the T-Rex comes.   Use the game as part of a literature lesson so that kids live inside the story as the characters – they can sneak into a Secret Garden like Mary Lennox or explore the Chocolate Factory like Charlie Bucket.  Use it in history and social studies to make the events more visceral: kids are landing in the Revolutionary War, and have to arrange the 13 colonies correctly on a map before the redcoats come!  No matter the context don’t forget to have a clear mission (your secret teaching tool) and an obstacle/nemesis to heighten the drama and the stakes.  

The scaffolding of the “elevator” allows kids to embrace Magical Thinking – but with the footholds of reality for both them and you.  In this way, the playing is rich and the journey spontaneous, but you have steps to gently direct their imaginations so they stay on track and learn.  When the micro-adventure on the “floor” is over you can go back to the neutral “elevator” as home base.  

Here are the steps broken down, and the example of the way we used it in our Child’s Play NY classroom as we explored the text of Beauty and the Beast.  With some painter’s tape and musical underscoring these kids are travelling – motored by their imaginations.

Tell me about how you use Magical Elevator in your classroom (or in your home) to teach, play and imagine with your kids.  Ask me your questions about play-based curriculums and share this video with others you think would enjoy it. Thanks for being part of Child’s Play in Action!

Warmly,

Jocelyn

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