Making the Case for Making Learning Fun
Keeping the learning process fun and fresh isn’t just something extra to consider before a holiday break or on a Friday afternoon. Adding creative and fun ideas into your lessons can help more learners feel engaged and motivated. This can be a critical element to reaching all learning, even those who struggle with completing work or aren’t as interested in the content area you are teaching.
It makes teaching fun for educators, too. Sometimes, it’s easy to get bogged down with the high demands of curriculum and expectations with state testing. As an educator myself, I’ve been there. Times like this are the perfect opportunity to do something new and re-ignite that spark for teaching.
Most importantly, when kids love learning, they will remember it. Use some of these strategies to help give your learners a fun, creative, and memorable experience in the classroom.
20+ Strategies for Making Learning Fun
Incorporate movement. Sitting at a desk all day isn’t good for anyone! Get kids up and moving while learning content. Have students toss paper basketballs into the recycling bin when they get a review question right or do jumping jacks as you practice multiplication facts. Whatever it is, get kids moving.
Spend time outside. It can really transform the learning environment just to step outside on nice days. Do an outdoor read aloud in the shade or just head out for an outdoor mindfulness nature walk.
Use student interests. The truth is that kids can be interested in some great topics that can be integrated into what you are already teaching! If you are learning about comprehension strategies, read a short book about dirt bikes. If you are focusing on literary devices, use songs that kids listen to. While you are at it, add your own interests as well!
Use task cards. Sometimes, it’s nice to change things up from a worksheet or book. Task cards can be a great way to get kids talking and working together on important skills. There are many different ways to use task cards, from center work to group discussions. You can even have students take turns answering task cards while playing a board game. Grab these free social problem-solving task cards to test it out!
Create learning centers or stations. Set up different learning activities around the room. These can be all on the same topic or different, depending on your learning goals. After 15 minutes or so at each station, ring a bell and have kids move on to the next. This is a great way to get kids moving and keep them interested on fresh content.
Invite a guest speaker. Find a community member who is willing to come in for a short period and talk about a topic. Consider reaching out to parents to see what topics they are experts on.
Have a class debate. Debates are a great way for kids to share their ideas in constructive ways. Start with a statement and have students choose a side, such as “homework should be required in all schools.” Of course, debates can be used on almost any topic, so they are a great way to engage learners.
Give brain breaks. We all need breaks throughout the day. Use brain breaks strategically to motivate kids and teens. Some of my favorite activities are nature brain breaks, such as butterfly breathing and a rainforest visualization. Another option is sorting through free YouTube videos to find a guided brain break that meets the needs of your learners.
Use reader’s theater. A reader’s theater activity is a script that students read from. The idea is that each student has a different part, just like a script from a movie. This is a great activity to build reading fluency, but it also can allow kids to work on understanding social cues. Something wonderful about reader’s theater scripts is that they can be used for many different subjects and topics.
Use digital activities. Explore learning in a new way with digital and interactive workbooks. These lessons and activities have moveable pieces on Google Slides to make learning new material a little bit more engaging. This Social Emotional Learning Digital Workbook is always a favorite.
Take an indoor field trip. Add some fun by taking a field trip to another location in your school. Visit the gym, the art room, or another teacher’s classroom to learn together.
Use crafts. When paired with a lesson, crafts are an excellent way to make learning meaningful. Best of all, there are endless options for crafts in the classroom on any topic. Make a fortune teller, a spinning wheel, design a poster, or more.
Create a makerspace. A makerspace is an area where learners are free to explore new ideas, build curiosity, and think outside the box. Read more about how you can set up a makerspace in your classroom.
Switch rooms. Find a colleague who is willing to do a room swap with you for a day or period. This seems silly, but it’s just another way to add some element of change to the day to keep things interesting!
Play learning games. Kids and teens always love a good game. The best part is that so many games lend themselves to being true learning tools. For example, you can play Pictionary with science vocabulary terms. Another idea is to play any board game and have students answer quiz questions before taking their turn. Even social emotional skills can be integrated and practiced with games.
Use an escape room activity. Escape rooms are collaborative puzzles kids must solve to unlock a code word. Some of my favorite escape rooms are for social emotional skills. They involve some prep work ahead of time but pay off in the end.
Work for a “Fun Friday.” Give something special for kids to work for! A “Fun Friday” is a reward day (or just part of the day) that kids earn through completing tasks or showing positive behavior. You can have your students work for it any way you choose. In my classroom, when students completed their work, our Friday class together was spent watching a movie that they picked out, coloring, or doing a fun craft. It’s a healthy way to keep kids motivated and add something fun to look forward to at the end of the week. Use this free reward list to help you come up with ideas.
Give student choice. Giving kids and teens a choice in what they are learning can make a huge difference. If practicing reading strategies, considering letting kids choose the topic for the text they are reading. Another option is to give a forced choice between two or three options. For example, when showing what they’ve learned on a topic, have kids choose between writing an essay, creating a Powerpoint presentation, or creating a storybook.
Integrate arts and music. Different art and music activities can be integrated right into the curriculum in a seamless way. Just as an example, when teaching about compare and contrast, have students listen to two different songs. Have them make a list of ways they are similar and different.
Have students lead. Allow kids to be the teacher and leaders themselves. Many kids will love the extra responsibility, so you might even use it as a reward.
Create a challenge. I can vividly remember back to learning my math facts during my own elementary years. My teacher created a challenge so that for each fact you learned, you earned another element to work towards an ice cream party (if you learned your 1’s, you earned a bowl; when you learned your 2’s, you earned a spoon, and so on). Create a special challenge to help motivate learners in a fun and engaging way.
Incorporate hands-on learning. Instead of writing about a novel, consider giving kids the chance to build a diorama of their favorite scene. Rather than just reading about map skills, have students make their own maps of made-up locations. There are always lots of opportunities for hands-on learning.
Perform experiments. Hands-on experiments are a fun and meaningful way to spark interest in the classroom. One of my favorite experiments was when we were learning about evaporation. Have students fill a cup of water. Take a walk out to the parking lot (or play area with concrete). Spill out that water and have students draw around the water with chalk. In just a few hours, they’ll come back to notice the water has vanished. As simple as this sounds, it is such a remarkable way to create that sense of wonder kids need when learning a new topic.
Use role-play. Act out scenes from a story or novel. Role-play can also be a great tool to build social skills by acting out scenarios.
Plan special days. Dress up like your favorite character or pajama day! Plan a special day that gives kids something special to look forward to. You can even list options and have kids vote on their favorite day.
I hope you love these ideas. Let me know what other strategies you are using to add fun and excitement to your classroom!