New Years Resolution for Fun - Steve Barkley

New Years Resolution for Fun

Many of you who have been in my workshops have worked on identifying the student behaviors that are precursors to gaining the student achievement levels that we seek. Often on the list is some emotional indicator that suggests students are enjoying learning…having fun!Last week I received the following email…

Mr. Barkley,
I really enjoyed your book
Wow! Adding Pizzazz to Teaching and Learning.

I was just wondering if you had any ideas on how to wow the little minds of Kindergarteners. I am always looking for something fun to get them involved with learning to make it fun. I see the fun of kindergarten going out the window as the years go by. We are really cramming the 5 year old full of information. Fun makes learning enjoyable.

My initial response was that I was in agreement with the writer’s opinion about the value of FUN and pleased that my book had provided reinforcement. I was also discomforted that we are at the state where we need to think about how to wow five year olds as they are filled with the natural wow of learning.

Thanks to a person I follow on twitter I landed on a blog by Jeremy Macdonald that examines FUN. Jeremy links to The Fun Theory website that is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. (Great videos illustrate fun motivating people to take stairs, pick up litter, and return glass bottles)

Jeremy makes these statements as a fifth grade teacher. “Children are hardwired to seek out fun and do all they can to make it. There is a lot of talk about rewards versus intrinsic motivation. It comes up every year. A sense of accomplishment is something we feel inside. A sense of relief and release. We know that as adults. Not all children do. A lot of kids look for the fun in things. They are our eternal funtomists.

Alfie Kohn wrote a piece titled Students Don’t Work—They Learn in which he asks us to consider the way we use the term “work” with students. You’ll note connections in his writing with the thoughts that Jeremy Macdonald shared on his blog.

Alfie’s suggestion for a September resolution works well for January.

September is a new beginning, a time for fresh starts. Consider, then, a resolution that you and your colleagues might make for this school year:
From now on, we will stop referring to what students do in school as “work.”
Importing the nomenclature of the workplace is something most of us do without thinking – which is in itself a good reason to reflect on the practice. Every time we talk about “homework” or “seat work” or “work habits,” every time we describe the improvement in, or assessment of, a student’s “work” in class, every time we urge children to “get to work” or even refer to “classroom management”, we are using a metaphor with profound implications for the nature of schooling. In effect, we are equating what children do to figure things out with what adults do in offices and factories to earn money

Here’s the note I sent back to the Kindergarten teacher:

Glad you liked the book…
I think you labeled that the key is not getting in the way of Kindergartners being wowed. They are naturally wowed by “NEW”. I taught first grade and nearly everything in science wowed them.
My thought… hide the tests and assessments from them. Let them see them as just an activity…
Real is a wow for KDN… people, animals, places…
Here is a favorite of mine. Langwitches Blog on Flat Stanley.

Happy New Year and keep WOWing your students.


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