We are educating children. Children want to play, explore, interact with others, and learn things that are interesting to themselves. And most educators were drawn to teaching because they either enjoy children, love being in front of others, enjoy helping others, love the satisfaction from teaching a child, and/or love their teaching subject. None of those reasons included a love of testing, or a love of standard based learning. (Which maybe you do love standards. But that probably didn’t draw you to the career.) That list did include an overall love of engagement with children.
An important part of increasing student engagement is giving students the opportunity to have joyful experiences while learning. Psychology Today has given access to an Educational Leadership research article on the Neuroscience of Joyful Education. This article specifically points out that when students have fun experiences, they have more success retaining information and recalling it later. This means as teachers, administrators, and educational policy makers, we need to be allowing and giving space for fun in the classroom.
What It Does For You
- Increases motivation and satisfaction from the teacher.
- Increases student engagement.
- Improves student retention and recall.
- Decreases student stress in the classroom.
How To Do It
Navigating fun into standard based learning can be difficult. Here are some ideas to try to include it:
- Remind students why you are learning a specific topic and try to relate it to their lives.
- Include activities and themes that students are interested in (incorporate seasons, holidays, local traditions, relevant cultural traditions, fun activities that kids like playing).
- Allow students breaks throughout the day from specific learning. Give them time to play.
- Teach students how to prioritize information (they can’t memorize everything).
- Create a positive and inclusive atmosphere in your classroom.
- Allow choice for students.
- Create times to just have some fun as the whole class.
- Feel free to be silly and goofy.
- Give students positive feedback and praise.
- Look up some ideas on Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest. There are lots of ideas!
- Be creative. Break out of the box!
If you are required to use a specific curriculum, try adding some engagement activities throughout. Or try carving out time for some fun activities afterwards. Advocate for fun in the classroom! Tell your administrators it’s important.