Making Lessons FunTweet
When it comes to focusing on a task, we all have limits to our attention spans. It varies from person to person and task to task. Children tend to have naturally shorter attention spans, so when facilitating their learning, it’s important we make lessons engaging and challenging. If we succeed, the result is fun. Fun is a byproduct of an active mind.
In this article, I share some tips that can be used in the classroom or at home to transform less engaging tasks into captivating ones. These tips can be adapted and apply equally well to learners of any age – as I said we all have our limits, and these tips can make your own study time more efficient too.
One of the most successful techniques is to turn the exercise into a game. In the classroom, points can be awarded for novel ideas or collecting items of new vocabulary; dictation exercises can be turned into running dictation exercises; learning synonyms can be supplemented with a pair memory game. The scope of gamification is vast – just about anything can be tried as long as there’s a clear goal or target in sight. It’s important to have something achievable to aim for. Our brains love to get us over the finish line and give us a dopamine reward when we complete a challenge. It’s worth noting that these should be personal accomplishments that each student can attain individually. While friendly competition can be enjoyable, it’s still important each student has the feeling of success.
As if the point needed proving further, gamification has had a major impact on adult behaviour via countless smartphone apps to improve personal habits and also myriad different learning tools. Recent examples include the very popular Duolingo app for learning new languages. In it, players collect experience points as they progress up through grammar topics and new areas of vocabulary. There are also personal fitness apps that give statistics and breakdowns comparing your latest workout with your previous efforts and presenting you with a digital leaderboard. One such app is Strava, which I’ve personally used for years when cycling. There are even personal finance apps that turn saving into an attractive activity as you watch the virtual piggy bank fill up.
One particularly useful tool for helping learners is to make abstract concepts more tangible by turning them into a recognisable character. A memorable example from my childhood was the Letterland series of books to help children learn the letters of the alphabet. Each letter was transformed into a well known animal or object beginning with that letter.
Another good example is i-Learner’s own Bugbug mascot. By following a recognisable character, students are exposed to a huge range of different topics through both fiction and non-fiction, all in the company of a trusted friend.
While some people swear by different learning strategies, one thing is certain – interacting with and exploring a topic is one of the most efficient ways of acquiring and retaining knowledge. Young students can use models; older students find flashcards useful. Others might like to pin up character portraits and link them with string to untangle a character web in a Shakespeare play. Anki decks have long been a useful way for people studying to learn and test themselves as they go.
Whether it be playing with physical objects, manipulating online simulations, or working through formulas in maths, getting hands on with a problem is a sure-fire way to make quick progress.
We’re fortunate to be able to bring some of these to the classroom both in person and online classes. Here are a few helpful links to start getting interactive:
Educandy is a website where you can enter lists, pairs, or groups of words and have them turned into interactive character filled games.
Baamboozle is another website for creating interactive quizzes and games. It has incredible flexibility, allowing you to easily create novel exciting content.
Kahoot is one more site for creating multiplayer quizzes with bright colours and plenty of fun.