Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to make your learning more fun

I'll never forget the moment when my 5th grade teacher took out an oatmeal cream pie (the crinkling sound of it coming out of its wrapper making my mouth water) and crushed it up, stirring it into a big container of water.

He then went on to give us a science lesson about the digestive system.

I've never forgotten that moment, because it was fun and relevant.

In elementary school it is accepted that learning should be fun, to keep the kids engaged. I'm currently learning Spanish right now, and I frequently watch Blues Clues in Spanish to help me learn. And you know what, it is pretty fun. 

I'm sure Blue couldn't do much when it comes to teaching calculus, but then again, what if? Fun and learning can and should always be connected. 

I always looked forward to the classes that were fun. They were the classes where I also learned the most. 

Field trips to Publix to learn about how a deli works, interactive coffee houses where we read poetry, acting out a period of 13th century history using silly costumes...these are the moments I treasure. And they are what kept me waking up every day for school - excited. 

Sadly, those moments waned with every year, with the exception of a few exceptional teachers. Our society assumes we grow out of a need for childlike fun and wonder. That it's time to grow up and stare at books. I don't believe this. Who said coloring stops being relevant? (Bring out a pack of markers for a college assignment and watch what happens in a classroom). 

Learning should never stop being fun. But you can't always rely on other people to make it fun for you - that is a part of growing up.  

Below are some ways you can bring the fun to your learning every day:

  • Start study groups and develop fun games to practice the content together. Illustrate concepts with markers. Develop a trivia game with points and prizes. Make people laugh. 
  • Have contests between your friends when it comes to getting the best test grades (e.g. person with highest grade gets to pick where you all go to dinner afterwards) 
  • Volunteer with or spend time with elementary school kids you know. Watch how they play and learn. Chase your dreams like they chase bubbles.
  • When you're reading your textbook or listening to a lecture, always be thinking about how you can connect what you're learning with what you already know about the world. Make it relevant for yourself.
  • Listen to music you love while studying, and take short dance breaks.
  • Organize your own field trip with a few classmates to a place that will help bring your course content alive. 
  • Look into study abroad or other field study courses.
  • When you give a class presentation, don't just do the bare minimum and read from slides. Make it fun for your audience. Bring relevant humor, props, videos, and your personality to the table. Entertain while you educate. Invite your audience to have fun with the content. 
  • Pick classes that really fascinate you. Never just pick a class because it's convenient to your schedule. Engage with learning that excites you and encourages you to want to wake up every morning. 
When learning is fun, you actually learn. You retain it, treasure it - and you never look at oatmeal cream pies the same again. 

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