5 Ways to Implement Finland’s Education Ideas

More breaks, more play, less testing, and no homework!


You have probably heard about Finland’s success in the PISA study.  The  Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA assesses and compares 15-year-old students all over the world.  So what can be learned from one of the most succesful educational system in the world? When looking at Finland’s success it seems almost too good to be true. Why not try some of their educational ideals?  Join in by implementing these simple ideas into your daily routine.

Take Breaks!

Break up your day with several short breaks. Finnish children have more recess time.  Usually they get a break every 45 minutes.  If you teach in the United States you have to teach Physical Education.  Many districts even require you to certify your PE minutes.  These PE minutes can be used to bring a little bit of Finnish glory to your classroom right now.  Every 45 minutes take a 10 minute PE break. This way you get in your PE time and optimize your learning environment.  There are many studies supporting frequent exercise breaks.  If your administrator is worried, let them know about the importance of brain-derived neurotropic factor. You are not taking things easy. You are on top of it with cutting edge teaching techniques!

No More Homework

Put the homework package down and slowly back away!  Imagine how freeing this would be.  No more grading, no more hunting after missed assignments, you can do it!  Seriously, at least cut it to your district guidelines.  You might be surprised how little homework your school district recommends. Most guidelines recommend 10 minutes for each grade level.  This adds up to only 10 minutes for a first grader!

Bring Back Imaginative Play!

Allow room for imaginative play in your classroom.  You could have a doll house or stuffed animals.  Bring back a play kitchen and dress up center. This can be part of your classroom reward system or your Friday activity.  If you are using Writers Workshop in your classroom you can include imaginative play in your prewrite activity.

Take Your Breaks

Take your breaks! You need them.  No more copying during lunch and recess.  You need your breaks just as much as the kids.  Finnish teachers get lots of breaks and planning time.  Use the little time you have wisely. Go for a walk, watch a TED talk, or read a good book.  Teachers in Finland do and they are much more respected than their American counterparts.

Less Testing

You probably are required to use some standardized test.  They are usually very comprehensive.  Do you really need any more than that? There are many alternative assessments available as well.

Can It Be This Easy?

Teach PE every day, forget about homework, include playtime, take your breaks, and test less. Sounds great, right? Even if you might not be able to try all of these ideas immediately, start with one or two and see the difference it will make for you and your students.


Play With Nature

Play With Nature

How much time do your students spend interacting with nature?  Think about it.  What once was an everyday occurrence for kids is now rare and sometimes even non-existent.  Students used to walk to school, climb trees and even got dirty.  Today children only spend about 1% of their time outdoors. They are usually corralled behind a chain link fence on a  concrete surface.  We allow them to have a jungle gym and a ball but they are completely removed from nature…

Why does nature matter?  Nature allows children to play and interact with the physical laws of the world.  To play with a pillbug means to explore the world of crustaceans.  To observe water and sand is to get experience with erosion and how substance change when they are mixed. Sticks are great for building (and sword fights).  When we give children toys, their function and purpose has been predetermined.  Nature provides an open-ended game, wakes curiosity, and has a generally calming effect on the mind and body.

When children are allowed to experience nature it is often within the context of a park or other area altered by man.  We tell them, ” Don’t touch this, don’t pick the flowers, please don’t pick up the rocks.”  We get upset when they want to interact with their environment in a tactile way.  Children’s brains are still developing and so the elementary grade student has to touch her environment, just as much as a baby has to mouth objects, in order to establish the brain mapping of our three-dimensional world. It is a child’s job to make mud pies, throw rocks, and play with sand and water.


Research has shown that playing with nature is an important contributor of healthy development in children.  The benefits of reconnecting with nature seem endless:

  • Increased concentration
  • Better performance on standardized tests
  • Reduction of ADD and ADHD symptoms
  • greater academic success
  • greater impulse control
  • stronger immune response

What can be done right now in our classrooms and homes to give children experiences with nature that are so vital to their well-being? One way to bring nature into your classroom is to create a nature center.  It could include shells, pinecones, sticks, pebbles , and other interesting things.  Allow children to build with the natures center. They will build little worlds of their own right in your classroom.  The center can be used for many academic activities but sometimes it helps to just use it as an area of play.  Even in our world of high pressure academics, our children sometimes need to be able to do what they were meant to do-play.