Friday, April 3, 2009

Is Fun a Four Letter Word?

It is amazing to me that the idea of having "fun" in a classroom can be so divisive.

A few weeks ago I was reading an article in a local newspaper describing the work of some preservice teachers working in middle school and elementary math classrooms. The article focused on students giving feedback and advice to the up and coming teachers. One of the students made the horrible mistake of mentioning the word FUN! This student had the audacity to verbally state that learning could be (and possibly should be) fun.

Oh no you didn't!

Some of the reader comments regarding the article were surprising to me. People were ranting about the concept of a fun classroom as: a waste of time and learning doesn't happen in a "fun" classroom,

My favorite comment: "Let's get the expectation of "fun" out of our schools. It doesn't exist in the schools where excellence is the standard."

I agree that school should not be a Disneyland of entertainment, but instruction should be engaging for the learner. Isn't this obvious? In my work as a teacher of learners from age six to adulthood, this is a fundamental truth- Making learning fun and engaging will maintain the focus of the learner, increase time on-task, generate more intrinsic motivation for learning, facilitate relationship building, and alter conceptions about content areas (such as science).

I have utilized fun and engagement:
to motivate 3rd grade non-writers to become poets and authors
to motivate and teach non-reading elementary students to become life-long learners
to motivate preservice teachers with an aversion to science to embrace the teaching of science.
to motivate elementary teachers who mess up their science kits and send them back to take a risk and transform their teaching

I would like to know what others think about increasing engagement in our classrooms.

1 comment:

  1. Just ran across your blog today following a long line of other web ramblings.

    I love your thoughts.

    I wonder how many of those educators who were worried about making sure we keep fun out of our classrooms complain about their inservices being boring, dry, or irrelevant...

    I also wonder how many people enjoy their work so much that they would come to it every day if they weren't being paid. I think the best teachers have fun teaching. They work hard but they really enjoy what they do. It's a passion for them. It's...well, fun.

    I would hope we make it easy for our students and colleagues to have fun learning.

    Liz Walhof
    (Instructional Technology Coach, Parker, Colorado)