Learning can and should be fun! As educators, we need to first and foremost inspire students to become life-long learners.
“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” -Chinese Proverb
So what’s wrong with making learning fun? Not to say, that it shouldn’t be challenging and fulfilling, but why not have fun??! Fun is universal. If it is fun, students will want to do what is needed and what is often more difficult.
Our job as educators is to motivate students. As world language teachers, that shows itself in the form of the following:
- authentic activities and assessments
- student choice
- catering towards student interests
- relevant topics and resources
- ability to reach all students
- Use manipulatives instead of worksheets: When teaching a new verb form, cut the stem and the ending into two parts and add subjects and objects to make complete sentences. Students can put together sentences in front of the class as a demonstration or in small groups at their seats.
- Allow for collaboration: Learning is best when it is a social process. As a processing activity with new concepts, I have students rotate in stations, where the use verbal or written skills to put their learning into practice with other students.
- Sing and dance: Musical and kinesthetic learners appreciate this the most, but it is fun for everyone. Use the private sector as an example. How many commercials use jingles that we cannot get out of our heads??!
- Focus on topics that students are interested in: When they have a personal connection to the material, it will not only be fun, but more meaningful as well. Learning must take place within a context, and adjusting instruction to tie to student interests will help do so.
- Use cell phones in the classroom: Cellphones aren’t just phones anymore, they are the world at our fingertips. And students love to use them! With Polleverywhere, Voki and Google Voice, interpersonal and presentational speaking and writing can happen in the classroom everyday in an engaging and fun way.
- Surprise your students: Students need routine. Establish routine in your procedures, but mix up your activities, projects and assessments. I try and continually add a new activity to my “bag of tricks” at least once a marking period. The true reward is when you hear, “That was so fun!! Can we do that everyday??” Of course not, but when you intermittently splice in their favorite activities, they look forward to class and wonder what they will be doing each day.
- Put your and their pictures in PowerPoints or Prezis that introduce new vocabulary: When I did a unit on technology, I made a conversation between myself and another teacher on a presentation by using our pictures. Then the last few interactive slides, I surprised students with pictures of themselves “talking”.
- Laugh with your students, and don’t take anything too seriously: A classroom can be a place of discipline, organization, challenge, diligence and fun! On this particular day, both my students and I laughed so hard, we cried!