I always ask a question from my students when I meet them for the first time. “How do you feel about your school or learning?” Most of the time, I hear the same answers; the school is boring, there is no fun in the classroom, we always have to listen to the teacher, or it is exhausting and stressful. Heavy words for a young group of people, aren’t they?
I tried asking myself why children think this way. The schools are continuously telling the students to stop joking around and take education seriously. Yes, education is a serious matter. The school is about learning but does it have to be exhausting and stressful?
Education must be there to bring the best in our children. It must integrate with excitement and should be a tool of encouragement for the children to become lifelong learners. We 21st-century teachers are responsible for raising a generation that loves to learn, produce critical thinkers, risk-takers, problem solvers, good communicators, and innovators into the world. Therefore, helping them to see the JOY OF LEARNING is needed yet remains a challenge for the teachers.
Teachers must allow children to engage actively during lessons if they want to make the learning enjoyable and memorable journey. Children in today’s world can access millions of various interactive resources. Modern technologies have enabled children to access and learn so much more with fun and excitement. The more we say learning should be fun, the more our students get bored inside the classrooms. SO WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?
TEACHER THE “INNOVATOR”
Teachers rely entirely on textbooks because it is the primary source of information to teach any subject. It shows the order in which teachers must deliver the content to the children. Most lessons in textbooks are boring for our children. Why? Because it includes so many details and information. When children are not interested and motivated during a lesson, the learning will not be successful and meaningful. So how we can make our students interested in these lessons? Walt Disney once said, “When you are curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” Children, by nature, are curious. Therefore, education must help to bring curiosity within our children so that the learning becomes enjoyable. While planning a lesson, teachers’ creativity will play a massive role in encouraging every child to bring up that curiosity and interest. Teachers must be creative and innovative to transform a dull, boring topic from a textbook into an exciting adventure. Rather than learning become exhausting, it must be challenging and vigorous. Our students must be thirsty for more knowledge. Learning must bring our students’ strength and their passion out to the world.
Children must be encouraged to be active learners rather than passive. To learn actively, teachers must ensure their teaching fulfils this need. Such learning comes not from quiet and teacher-centric guided instruction. Active teaching consumes a lot of thinking and time. Still, it is rewarding by achieving tremendous success in learning for students. The teacher must question whether the children will learn profoundly or have another surface learning. Surface learning is mainly following their teachers and studying materials and concentrating purely on examination requirements. Deep understanding promotes extending ideas and applying knowledge and skills in new contexts or creative ways. It enables the students to find learning more exciting, adventurous, and fun.
If the teacher is creative and innovative, our children will enjoy and know the true meaning of learning. It will be a journey to remember.
SO MUCH GOING ON… BEING A TEACHER SEEMS HARD, BUT WE MUST ENSURE THAT OUR CHILDREN ARE SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATING IN THIS EXCITING JOURNEY.
How can teachers make learning fun and engaging?
I always make an effort to plan lessons to be interactive, exciting, and fun to keep my students engaged the entire time. For every experienced teacher, keeping the students involved with a task is the most challenging. We need to be creative and stretch out from our comfort zone if we need to see a difference in teaching and learning.
“SOMETIMES THE THING YOUR STUDENTS NEED MOST, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT’S ON YOUR LESSON PLAN.” Unknown
As teachers, we always grumble about our students for their lack of interest and motivation in classrooms. But our job is to motivate, encourage and enthuse them. We cannot always promise to have fun in the class. Still, the boring textbooks, lack of innovation and creativity among the teachers make the learning even more powerless.
So as teachers how we can SPARK some interest in what we teach?
Connecting learning to real-life experiences
“How does it going to help me in the future?” The eternal question most of the students have when we teach something new. When I was in school, learning anything new, I wondered the same. Why do I have to learn this? In most scenarios, we have not understood the purpose of learning. Therefore, what we understood is because of the exams we must.
So what is this “making connection with real-life experience” is truly about? How is it going to help gain a better understanding?
It is where students see a reason to learn and how they can be applied to the world outside of classrooms. Though we teachers understand how and what we teach has a connection to the world outside, the children often lack that understanding. It is, therefore, essential to develop an engagement towards the lesson by making real-world connections. When students have the ability to relate what they are learning, they will have a better understanding to applying those with real-life and experience that “AHA” moment. Until teachers build a connection between the materials with practical applications, students will experience MEANINGLESS learning.
Include all types of intelligence whenever possible
Howard Gardner’s famous “THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES” explains that not all people are born with the same intelligence or learn the same way. Everyone has a unique way of learning and thriving in a learning context. Gardner says that teachers should teach to support all intelligence types rather than focus only on the old-style ones such as linguistic and logical intelligence. When teachers break these traditional learning styles, children will be able to experience new learning methods. It becomes exciting and enjoyable for them.
“To increase the success of the student’s academic achievements, the teacher must work WITH the students rather than work FOR them.” Unknown
As teachers, it is a challenge to use this various intelligence within the classrooms. However, the most challenging part is to know what type of learning is best for our students. This will help to implement multiple intelligences successfully in the classroom. It is essential to give choices whenever possible to our children when learning and demonstrating their knowledge. It is not always we ask children to write down paragraphs, but there are multiple ways that a child can use to remember a lesson. Giving choices to children will support to keep them engaged during lessons.
Teachers’ responsibility is to continuously observe the students’ interest in different areas and have a diverse lesson accordingly. When various approaches are implemented successfully with students, we will experience positive outcomes. Students will develop and begin to apply multiple new skills, cooperative learning skills, and independence. Learning, therefore, will be a unique experience with lots of satisfaction and excitement.
Promote “interaction” in the classroom
Human beings are, by nature known to be social creatures. When we have outings, picnics, parties, or dinner outs, we prefer to go with friends than alone. WHY? Because it is fun to do things together, like sharing thoughts, experiences, and feelings. So then why not we practice the same in the classrooms with our students? Instead, we ask them to do their work alone. Why do we not encourage students to interact with each other when learning?
Working in a group and sharing ideas are perfect ways to have more fun and engaged when learning. Teachers can assign partners or change partners after a specific time so that every student within the classroom gets an opportunity to work with each other. It gives them the ability to collect and discuss various ideas. As many brains are involved, they will realise that there are multiple perspectives to look at a problem.
ISN’T IT SOUND FUN?
Let them move around in the classroom
We make our students sit in the classroom for 50 minutes and say NO to walk or talk but asking to follow every instruction. Do you think our children will enjoy in such environment? They clearly will tend to get RESTLESS!
Why can’t we add some movements into the lessons? If teachers can add movements to a lesson, it makes the task more exciting, lively, and fun. No one likes to be in a monotonous routine, especially children. We can use movement as an educational tool for learning rather than just moving around. Movements allow students to connect and experience more with the lesson and outside the world. Instead of having lessons inside the same classroom all day, why can’t we change their physical learning environments? Won’t it be FUN for them?
Teachers must be creative to blend different ways to include such movements into daily lesson plans. If we want our students to be more successful in learning and enjoy our lessons, then definitely they must NOT just sit the entire time.
LEARNING IS FUN IF WE DO IT CORRECTLY!
Having fun while learning encourages our students to understand better when receiving the information so that learning becomes more memorable and enjoyable.
Keeping students engaged and making learning fun is a challenging task that we teachers run over with. We always work towards our students’ success; therefore, navigating them to a successful educational journey is unquestionably a reward as a teacher could accomplish. It isn’t just our students who will enjoy and have fun during lessons. The teachers will also achieve self-satisfaction, knowing their students have successfully received a meaningful learning. Along these lines, I feel that it is a WIN-WIN situation.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Thilini always tries to think outside the box when it comes to teaching. She often uses her creative and innovative ideas during lessons to fulfil the needs of her students. She believes it is time to change the learning and teaching approaches to create future innovators and entrepreneurs.
Thilini loves reading and travelling. Coming from a beautiful tropical country, Sri Lanka, she is a nature lover.
Even though she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Computing, she was later more interested in the educational field. She started the journey by doing her Postgraduate in Education. She is now holding a Master’s degree in Education, specialised in International Education. She is also a Cambridge certified IGCSE ICT teacher and an Assessment Specialist for Cambridge International Examinations. She was also working as an Examinations Officer for both Edexcel and Cambridge examination boards where she experienced the administrative skills.
With over 10 years of teaching experience, her life-changing opportunity arrived when she started to work in Amna Bint Wahab Secondary School for Girls in Doha. During the time from 2015 till 2019, she participated in the “Life Skills” program called “Taqaddam” for three years, one of her professional life milestones, giving many lifelong learning experiences. She was also the first and the only teacher to teach the newly introduced subject “Life Skills” in English medium by the Qatar National board in a local school. Several other events, such as “FameLab- Talking Science” and participating as a key speaker in one of the events in Doha added lifelong experiences to her both professional and personal life.
Working in a culturally diverse environment for 8 long years, potentially improved her experience, promoting the awareness and understanding of different viewpoints. It also helped her to enhance creativity and think broader to solve problems more efficiently.
At present, she is interested in doing research for the PhD, where she wants to implement new ideas and make a positive change in the educational field in Sri Lanka.