As the heading for this blog suggests (rather clumsily I must admit), I argue that when students are having fun, they learn more effectively and learn for the long-term and beyond the classroom. Often all it takes is a little bit of effort and imagination on behalf of the teacher and students to reframe the in-class activities where the quality of the content is not demeaned but where the context is made as enjoyable as possible.
If one thinks for one second that high school students are not all about fun, walk around a school of this type at interval and lunch and just experience the energy, fun and engagement. It should not be so that when students close the door of their classroom, they leave such positive existences outside. We need to as much as possible ensure that we meet the student enjoyment levels (within reason of course). Failure to do so means we fail to meet our expected student engagement and arguably student learning and achievement levels.
Noise is learning! It really scares me when I'm in a classroom environment and there's silence, deathly silence unless of course the teacher's speaking. Then there's often only silence in student thinking and engagement. I remember doing an bitmoji session with my students earlier this year. Was it fun? Absolutely. Was there learning? Yes for me and my students as although it didn't fit a traditional Year 11 English learning activity, the engagement and collaboration was immense. Through this reasonably straight forward and easy activity, students had to consider just how much and what elements of their personality did they wish to reveal in visual form.
Fun should also be key to the learning even in assessment contexts. This year, my students have the choice of working on both a wevideo assessment or screencastify speech assessment. Where's the fun I hear you think? The fun is in the detail. The students get to choose their topic, they negotiated the deadlines and the format and content is completely up to them.
The best Masters exam I ever sat was Special Issues in Education. Without a word of a lie, this was a really enjoyable 3 hour block of my life, it was YES, fun. Why? Because although the exam was very rigorous, we were required to present evidence-based aspects of our pedagogical philosophies and really critically reflect on what we saw as important in the field of education. We also had a lot of choice and were marked in the exam on quality of thinking over quantity of regurgitation.
Back in a school context, last Friday I was invited to 9PO's movie première on Measurement videos. Now to put 9PO in perspective, they are one of our co-top classes, for the most part our Excellence and Scholarship students moving forward, also effectively 1:1 BYOD and very serious about learning and achievement. Their Maths teacher Mr Gellatly decided to ensure that the learning was fun by getting the students to produce a video about one element of measurement. The results were amazing as the students took to the task with great enthusiasm, resource and imagination. I can't believe I'm saying this but I really enjoyed sitting through 30 minutes of a multitude of Maths videos. Needless to say but through learning in such a fun context and the ultimate presentation format, these students also learnt about collaborating, sharing and the absolute need to celebrate learning.
So how do we get the fun back into high school classrooms as a key element of learning? Easy. Nick the applicable ideas from the lower levels of kindergarten or primary or even better, ask the students! Not only will the students no doubt surprise you for the most part with the maturity of their responses, they will also likely blow you away with their subsequent buy-in. And what if the fun-key learning fails? Well one can always revert back to type. However before we as teachers do go back to the old ways, we need to bear in mind that what is a failure for us is often a tremendous learning opportunity for our students.
We want our students running into our classes, instead of biding their time waiting to run out to their know fun locations in our schools but outside our classrooms. The more fun students have in the classroom, the more likely they are return, eager for more engagement and learning. Needless-to-say if we get the engagement and learning sorted, the achievement takes care of itself.
Just think for a moment. Really think, how would I want to learn this content or achieve this learning outcome if I was a student of 2016. Think creatively and fun first, and conservatism last. Trust me your students will thank you for it and ultimately you'll thank yourself as well.
Fun on I say!