I work hard at trying to provide learning opportunities that can be fun. For sure it’s a “special sauce” in my teaching methodology because I deeply believe that people try harder – and that there is more “stickiness” to education – when students are actually enjoying the work they are being asked to do.
Fact is, figuring out how to marry meaningfulness to rigor through “fun” is how I spend a lot of my prep time for lessons. Making school “enjoyable” is not a dirty word. (Though you wouldn’t know it if you look at the textbooks, the bubble sheet tests, or even the content standards. Sheesh, could they be more boring? Particularly the bubble tests. It’s like they overtly seek to disengage students as if triumphing over the dread of the content being tested is a academic skill for today’s kids.)
In my estimation, discounting the element of “enjoyability”, “meaningfulness” and “pleasure” is an Achille’s heel in ours school.
And rigor does not have to be sacrificed at the altar of student enjoyment. (Trust me, project-based learning where kids actually have to “create” something requires far more depth of knowledge and diversified skill sets than choosing A, B, C, or D 75 times in a row.)
But often it seems like we forget the perspective of the kids when we craft our lesson plans.
As a student, I want to sit in the room of a chemistry teacher who “blows something up” in order to bring a lesson to life.
As a student, I want to sit in the room of a history teacher who figures out a way for me to smell the stench of a blood-stained battlefield.
As a student, I want to be intrigued, challenged and engaged. I like surprises. I like experiences. I like it when I like what is going on around me.
And I don’t like it when I don’t. Life is interesting. School can be invigorating. The world is an amazingly complex, interesting and awe-inspiring place.
Don’t let it die on the classroom vine.
Engross your students. Gross out your students. But know that if you want to better reach your students, I say, don’t violate the law of basic kid-ness: they like to enjoy what they are doing.
After all, you catch more flies with honey, right?