Learning should be fun!

But it’s not, is it? Why are so many children bored in school – especially at secondary? My recent blogs have featured mastery as a form of deeper learning – especially in the basic skills of language/ communication, literacy and maths. Given that these skills are our basic tools, then surely, mastering these areas must come first. It also follows that learners must be sufficiently interested and engaged in whatever they are learning to be able to ‘deep dive‘ into it.

Take English. In the ‘Writers Forum’ magazine, Charlotte Barker argues for a better way to teach English. She is so right. Her article makes a good case for teaching writing differently – with less emphasis on rules and more on the art of communication. In schools, children learn, and talk, about spelling, punctuation and grammar so frequently, it is known as SPAG, for short. Exams are often marked with SPAG high on an examiner’s criteria for success. What happens? The fun and magic of writing as communication become lost. Children switch off. Creativity and imagination are locked away – because children are taught that rules come first. Yet, it is also accepted that most published writers break rules anyway in order to make their writing effective – to hook and maintain reader interest.

Maths too is often boring in school. But why? Maths has the potential to be a fascinating and creative area of learning – if children are allowed to explore its… magic.Yes…magic. I am thinking of writing a book on Making Maths Magic – exploring its wonders. My proposed book would not be solely about methods – but about the WHY of numerical relationships – the richness of mathematical concepts. Okay, children do need to know how to work out algebra and to apply the rules of numbers: but method alone will never create the next population of mathematical problem-solvers – nor does ‘method alone’ work as a single strategy for teaching maths. So are we back to throwing out the mathematical rules (sometimes?) and inviting children to explore numbers in similar ways to exploring writing – in ways that bring out the fun in learning? Yes …I think we are.

What schools must start to do is engage children more – make them want to take learning further, beyond homework – even if it does mean that children switch on their tablets. After all, we can’t get away from the fact that tablets are now the main exploratory tools for everything. So using them to ‘deep dive’ into learning might at least be more purposeful than playing some of the mindless games that do little to nurture creative thinking.

Games work too. The other day my young granddaughter and I (correct grammar??) played a simple ‘pairs’ game for learning about number bonds to 20 – the pairs being just squares of paper with the bonds written on. She was engaged for a full hour. So let’s go back to making learning exploratory, creative and …fun!

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