7 Ways to Make Learning Fun
How much fun happens in your classroom?
How much fun happens during your class? Think of it this way: If you had a choice, would you want to be doing the things you ask students to do? There are seven simple ways you can make learning fun for your kids.
Chad Maguire, a former middle school teacher, uses a numeration scavenger hunt, during which students must find 50 real-world uses of math. “The students are excited to do this project, and it also opens the awareness that math is not just a subject in school,” Chad says. It doesn’t take much time or effort to turn something into a game. Add some points and a little competition (either by the group or team or as separate individuals) and voila!
Chad Maguire, also using a creative way for his students to research and write about a famous mathematician. After giving students an overview of the project and sharing brief biographies of mathematicians, he randomly draws students’ names, and they hold a draft similar to a professional sports draft to select their subjects. The finished report must include standard information about the person, but students also present the information in a creative way, such as role-playing the mathematician or creating a game. As a final incentive, students earn bonus points based on the number of characteristics they have in common with their mathematician.
Erin Owens creates a fun taste of reality for her first graders. As a culminating activity for an economics unit, the class takes a field trip to a Krispy Kreme (doughnut) store. They observe real-life examples of key concepts: marketing (posters and signs), jobs (cashier, doughnut maker, and manager), goods and services, and teamwork. To apply what they learned, they set up a class store. As a group, they determined the store name, what to sell, costs and needed materials, how to market the store, and the necessary jobs. “All of this took teamwork, and, in the process, the students took ownership of their learning. It was amazing to see the application of concepts in progress. After completing job applications, they divided into teams and thought of everything needed to effectively run the store. I served as facilitator and material gatherer; they planned everything. At the end, the other first-grade classes came to purchase our bookmarks.”
Erin also uses a popular television show for inspiration in her classroom. “My students share a great deal. I have found that a microphone has played a key role in motivating them to produce quality work. First of all, they love the microphone; they say it is like ‘being on American Idol.’ You can hear them more clearly and their voice is obviously amplified. This gains the attention of the audience more so than traditional sharing. After the ‘glamour’ wears off, they begin to realize that they are showcasing their work each time they “step up to the microphone. I began to see a major change in their motivation to produce the best work they were capable of to impress and entertain their peers.” Notice how she capitalizes on her students’ desire to perform to help them refine the presentation of their work.
Act it Out
In Texas, Karen Eliason livens up grammatical instruction with her ninth graders by asking students to “create a play with nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. as characters. It was memorable, creative, and much more effective than endless pages of drills in the textbook.”
Invent a Game
Scott Bauserman, a teacher at Decatur Central High School in Indiana, asks his students to choose a topic from the social studies unit and design a game. The finished product must teach about the topic, use appropriate vocabulary and processes, and be fun to play. As he explains, “Students have to construct the game, the box, provide pieces and a board, and write the rules. I received a wide variety. One game I will always remember was about how a bill gets passed into law. We spent time [in class] talking about all the points where a bill in Congress or the state General Assembly could be killed, pigeon-holed, or defeated. One student took a box the size of a cereal box, set up a pathway with appropriate steps along the way, constructed question/answer cards, and found an array of tokens for game pieces. If a player answered a question correctly, he or she would roll a dice and move along the path to passage. But the student had cut trap doors at the points where a bill could be killed, and if a player landed on a trap door/bills topper, the player to the right could pull a string, making that player’s token disappear from the board. The player would have to start over. Not a bad game from a student who has fetal alcohol syndrome and is still struggling to pass his classes.”
Jason Womack points out that connecting with real life is also fun and engaging. “My favorite example of this was when I was working with a student group on World War II and postwar years testing of nuclear and atomic devices. I had a group of students [in Southern California] who were surfers, and one of the assignments that I gave for this group of students was to go and find out what the surfing was like through the 1950s and 1960s, which was when it was just starting in that community. A lot of students came back and said they did not realize how much damage was done in the Pacific Ocean around nuclear testing and atomic testing.” His purpose wasn’t to make a judgment on whether the decisions about testing were good or bad; he wanted his students to think about how things impact their daily life.
A Final Note
If we want students to learn at higher levels, it’s important to incorporate fun into our classrooms. If we do, student motivation and engagement will increase, and students will understand and apply the concepts they are learning.