I am a firm believer that school should be fun for kids.
I don’t mean the fun from watching videos, going on field trips or letting them run around all day—although that is fun too. I mean fun in the classroom learning.
Yes… kids can have fun learning in the classroom.
Of course, it requires work of teachers and administrators, but when kids have fun, or they recognize the opportunity for fun, they tend to behavior better than if they were bored or disappointed. The problem is that if WE (the adults) don’t think school should be fun or think school could ever be fun, we translate that mindset to kids by our teacher praxis.
What’s even more fascinating to me is how the fun wanes as children progress through school. Ask a Kindergartener and they’ll tell you their school day was fun. Ask a 5th grader and they may tell you something different. While it is true that other variables factor into a 5th grader’s day, a great set of lessons can make the difference between a bad day and a day that wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Great lessons throughout the day can make the difference.
Of course, teachers have to do the administrative work of instruction: reviewing with students, prepping students for tests, delivering tests and quizzes, as well as behavioral management via whatever class dojo-like program they use to do so. Depending on your grade level, your doing this for numerous students or for the same students repeatedly for multiple content areas.
Either way, it’s work, and work that can drain a teacher on top of the burden of making engaging and fun lessons for kids. Don’t get me started on tasks from administration. Nevertheless, teachers really ought to do the work of making lessons fun. You have no place to complain about the last period class that gives you a hard time if your lessons are boring.
No matter the content, make that class fun. It doesn’t matter if you teach geometry or language arts literacy. Here are some practical ways any teacher can facilitate opportunities to inject more fun in their classroom lessons:
- Switch up what you do each day. As they say, variety is the spice of life. So, lecturing 5 days a week—let me use the vernacular to make my point more effective—aint gon cut it. No one wants to be lectured to everyday. All kids are learning at that point is how to survive a lecture. Because they certainly didn’t learn the content. Lecturing isn’t student centered nor is it inherently culturally responsive. If you must lecture, restrict it to one to two days a week… lean towards one day.
- Play music to set the tone of the room or reset the room. Everyone loves music and good music can make a day go faster and/or become better. Learning algebra may not be the most fun… that is until you turn one some music to help you get through it. I suggest Lo-fi hip hop… if you’re going to play hip hop, make sure it is the censored variety. Another suggestion is to allow your students to make a playlist of their favorite songs to be played in class.
- Allow (sanctioned) use of their cell phones during assignments. So long as you get permission when lesson planning, allow your students to use their cell phones for their in-class work. Students can conduct research, find definitions, check out news apps, utilize a thesaurus and do other things to complete work in-class. Also, if you’re lecturing from a PPT and you either put too much stuff on a slide, or you make too many slides, or you change from slide to slide too fast, let student take picture on their phones.
- Integrate 1 day of classroom discussion. Kids love to talk… whether they are 7 or 17. Depending on the content area, discussion is a great way of integrating current events into your content or relating the content to a specific current event. A discussion day can facilitate opportunities to encourage (if not assign) reading for discussions and it provides an opportunity to integrate participation points in your gradebook. Most importantly, you talking to your students—engaging them—builds relationship and community amongst you and your students. You’ll learn from them and you can teach them in a different way. This is the real work. This is where the real teaching happens.
- Create a classroom community. I mean a real community. Not calling your students friends just to manage behavior and get them quiet. I mean REAL community. Again, have real conversations with your students (age appropriate of course) about current events that impact them and their community, inject your personality into the academic environment and don’t be afraid to let it show, create classroom rituals and traditions around celebrating accomplishments and also individuals. Your students should feel like your classroom is a special place that only they are aware of. Creating a community will do that as well as allowing you to push your students to be great academically.
At the end of the day, for these strategies to work, a teacher will have to not only do the work, but care enough about students to commit to the work regularly. But if one engages in the work of making class fun while loving the kids at the same time, their work will not be in vein.
Let’s continue to press towards the mark!