Why is Fun so Important in Teaching?

The way you measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 85 –  23rd February 2010

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Why Is Fun So Important in Teaching?

If you don’t come from an early childhood teaching background you may not be aware of the importance of making your lessons fun. I have been shocked to hear primary, secondary and music teachers telling me that children are in class to learn what the teachers are teaching and it isn’t always about having fun. I am shocked because I assume the importance of fun is common knowledge. Obviously it isn’t.

The reason I get this comment occasionally is that my number one rule that I have in my hand-outs at PDs is ‘Make It Fun – the children are not in your class to learn music – learning music is what happens while they’re having fun.’ It’s a bit like the advertisement – ‘Don’t tell them it’s good for them.’

The technical adjective for the young brain that is still laying down neural pathways is ‘plastic’, that is, it is malleable. It must be or the brain couldn’t develop properly. Studies have shown that when emotion is connected to any learning, the learning is enhanced. It makes sense, then, to make your lessons fun, doesn’t it? This applies to any learning at any age but most especially to children. How much fun does a baby have playing peek-a-boo with you behind a hanky or scarf? This game can go on for ages with the baby’s gleeful giggles ever increasing. Clearly this game is fun! The baby is feeling some level of control here by making things ‘disappear’ and ‘reappear’ – what they can’t see, therefore, doesn’t exist, according to a baby. It takes greater maturity for them to realise that not seeing does not mean not existing.

How can you turn your apparently boring lesson into one that’s fun? I once did a health lesson on safety in the home with a class of unruly year threes. Instead of giving handouts and a little talk, expecting them to pay attention, which I knew they wouldn’t, I turned it into a play. Remember that most unruly behaviour comes from children who are kinaesthetic learners. They learn best by doing, not by sitting and listening. I borrowed some play furniture from the kindergarten – a stove and pot, an ironing board and iron and a telephone. I brought in an old nappy from home. I chose a child to play Parent and another to play Baby. We acted out several times with different children the various possible scenarios, each time eliciting from the class what had happened, what might have happened and how to make sure the environment was safe. Do you think these unruly children were engaged? You bet! We finished up with writing up all the ways to make our homes safe, including pictures, and ensuring they knew the emergency telephone number and some very basic first aid. These children were totally engaged for over an hour, they learnt a lot and what’s more, they had fun. I’m sure they would have remembered what they learnt that day.

I am not suggesting that every moment of every day has to be a barrel of laughs leaving you exhausted. What I am suggesting is that one lesson that could be construed as being ‘over the top’ can be the springboard for so many other lessons. A relaxation lesson with guided listening and wonderful background music can be just as engaging and, therefore, beneficial for the child. The child can be imagining the ‘fun’ instead of physically taking part. Adding music opens up other areas of the brain, thus increasing the learning. Elite athletes practise the event many times in their head before the real performance, which makes the same neural connections as if they were actually doing it.

Please go to the website at www.kidzfizbiz.com for books and CDs with more teaching ideas and also to the newsletter archive where you can access more teaching tips for free.

Quotes of the Week

Against the force of laughter nothing can stand.  Mark Twain.

In his lifetime a man lives under fifteen or sixteen presidents, but a really fine teacher comes into his life but rarely. Ike Eisenhower 


Humour for Lexophiles (Lovers of Words)

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I’ll show you A-flat miner.

Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

Police were called to a day care centre where a 3 year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.

From Dan Poynter’s newsletter ParaPublishing


The most useful thing I learned was the use of scarves, rings, and movement to music.

The most useful thing I learned was the importance of crossing over the midline of the body. This workshop was great, especially for people training to become professional teachers. (from PD New Norfolk, Tasmania)

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E: info@kidzfizbiz.com

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Until next time … continue being a legend in your classroom.

Marlene Rattigan, Editor
Kidz Newz

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