Today, I have read two blogs that are explaining that lessons should be fun for children. They both say that fun in lessons is fine and also desirable. They miss the point. Let me make it clear that I would not want any teacher to plan, deliberately, a dull lesson. To squeeze any possible enjoyment that a child might have in taking part in the learning of the lesson.
Too often, in education, we seem to set up this polarisation. ‘Ah, you’re the one who says lessons should not be fun. So that means you want children to have a boring experience in your classroom!’
Poppycock. Nonsense. That is not at all what is being said by those that add a degree of caution tot he ‘fun’ lesson. There are several reasons for this. In no particular order they are:
Working memory is easily disrupted and if we are to learn something, other than skills like riding a bike, it has to go through working memory to get into long term memory. Working memory is a little more complex than this but the best model is by Baddeley and Hitch. This model is quite old and was proposed in 1974. When designing a lesson we have to put the learning up front and be very careful about the way in which we present that learning to children. Daisy Christodolou in her YouTube video explains what children remembered in a lesson she gave on the apostrophe. The lesson was full of fun and based around children planning a day in the life of a village. Far from remembering anything about the apostrophe what they remembered most vividly was that a chin saw was used to cut down the tree. One problem with planning fun. The fun was motivating but also the distraction.
If you think children need to be having fun you might well avoid or minimise particular learning as that particular piece is difficult to make fun. practice is not always the most fun thing one can do and practising to mastery and beyond can be quite a slog. If we believe children should be willing to put up with the boring stuff then we will organise our lesson and our expectations that they will do what is required for learning. We will explain to them, in assemblies perhaps, that to learn requires you to put in the effort even when it is not sugar coated. We might even have a reward system that credited children who showed the grit needed. If we believe they need to learn we will create systems that value those behaviours.
Fun No Fun. It is not either or. It is a choice we make that ensures the learning content is front stage and that we don’t distort that learning for the sake of fun.
Ask yourself how much are you worried by the fact that your children might misbehave if they do not find the learning fun? Is your learning plan predicated on stopping children misbehaving? Going off task? Not being focused? Is that really what happens if you plan quality learning and don’t mix in enough fun?
Have you ever significantly altered or even removed a part of a lesson because you could not make it fun enough?
Stop it. Plan good lessons and expect good learning behaviours.
‘ I think planning for fun is fine….if we want pupils to remember only the fun.‘ @Benneypenyrheol