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Learning and Fun

The thing is this: learning, is fun. Watch any kid working out how something works, arguing about why something happened or really captured by a story. They love it!

A successful classroom therefore, isn’t one that’s fun because kids are constantly playing games – it’s fun because they’re gripped by the discovery involved in learning. Yes, this often means having interactive activities- but that’s because a lot of learning goes on during interaction. If it were just because they were talking to each other then they might as well stop the task and talk about football and if it were just because they were moving around the classroom then they might as well leave it and go and play football. They have fun during these interactive tasks because they share eureka moments, because they can feel themselves collaborating or because they are finding out new things from each other.

The misunderstanding of what’s meant by “make learning fun” occasionally results in teachers almost hiding the learning; sneaking it in by the back door. What I love about teaching is that you can get pupils so interested in the intellectual process of understanding something, that even the most “disinterested” pupils can end up riveted by the process of working out what’s going on and why or how to do something.

So yes, make learning fun, but be very clear about what that means.

2 comments

  1. Laura says:

    I think a teacher’s need to make lessons fun is based on a few things.

    Firstly, students moan a lot less if they are enjoying themselves. When things are difficult students moan like heck. An experienced teacher knows that this moaning is, actually, quite enjoyable and cathartic for the learner and is able to harness it with humour or questions. The novice teacher often takes it personally and thinks it’s to do with their failure to make the lesson interesting.

    Secondly, before teaching most people have an idea in their head of their classroom that will be like No Other Classroom in the History of the World. It will be fun, and engaging, no-one will ever be bored and everyone will learn. When this fantasy breaks apart in the face of learning (which can be fun and engaging, but is often emotional and perplexing at the same time), teachers want to hide the bad stuff and just concentrate on the fun. After all, a student becoming demotivated wasn’t part of the dream. Better to go back to the copying so the image in front of you makes it seem like all is well!

    Finally, teachers are often given quite prescriptive things to teach and are sometimes afraid to move away from the syllabus for fear of reprisals in examination or observations by strict Heads of Department (often rightly so, as some people will punish teachers heavily if they do not follow lesson plans to the letter). In this case, the ability to find engaging questions or exploratory ‘fun-learning’ techniques is quashed, hence there is a reliance on ‘silly-fun’ not related to learning outcomes because these are the only ‘allowed’ activities.

    • loic_admin says:

      Good points Laura, think they explains why some teachers do this.
      I think your first point links to the behaviour side too. Teachers think that if they can pump the pupils full of enough fun and entertainment they won’t misbehave. That’s partly because pupils and teacher trainers often explain bad behaviour by saying that the pupils were bored and therefore the lesson needed to be more “fun” or “engaging”. Whilst that’s true, trainees often interpret that to mean that they need to put more entertainment in (bring out the wordsearches – clearly so entertaining!!!). The tutor/trainer/mentor’s job is therefore to talk much more specifically about strategies for engaging the pupils in the learning itself.

      A colleague once said to me “we’re in the teaching business, not entertainment”. There’s a good point in there but sadly it can sound like advocating dry and didactic teaching.

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