I was asked by someone last week what my goals in my job were. One of my goals is to make learning fun. I strive as much as I can to make it fun. Kid’s desire to come school changes, when school is fun.
This is also where I have run into a few problems in my teaching because I have spent too much of my personal time making things fun. But I know if I am going to get thru the day, as well as 22 seven year-olds, it needs to be fun.
My other goal is to teach other teachers how to have fun with their students. Many of us get our curriculums, we are told to stick to it, it has a script to go by and we have deadlines. That’s boring. But no admin is in your room constantly to verify, so mix it up.
Do I have to stick to the curriculum?
I stray from the curriculum A LOT. I am not supposed to. But guess what, my students are striving and when admin sees them striving, they remind me to stick to the curriculum, but I know they are proud of the way I have turned boring into fun.
They comment on my evaluations, they ask if it was in the curriculum and I am honest and say, no it wasn’t but the concept was. I am giving you permission today to find that fine line and figure out when you can slip in the fun.
How can we add fun into a scripted curriculum?
Last year we were working on our ELA, it was a typical day and my students were so antsy. It was really boring, I even had a hard time staying focused. So I decided that I would change things up a bit, on the fly.
I sent students outside to run a few laps around the grass by our classroom. I quickly switched my plan up and we had our family meeting when they got back in and then we went back to ELA a little later. Today the block needed to be split up.
When the students were running, they discovered that someone had dumped Orbeez on the ground by one of the trees. The student all came back with dirty and dried out Orbeez in their hands. We talked about what they were and I told them, I hear you can grow them back, but I am not sure if that actually works. I passed out baggies and the students put them in their backpacks to take home.
A few days later I was at Target with my kids in the toy section and I see a really small bag of Orbeez for just a few dollars. I bought 2 packs and decided that I better come up with a lesson with Orobeez, I just knew my students would be so excited to use these.
Here is what we did
So that Monday morning, I brought a bowl from home and filled it with water. I showed the students the tiny bag and we read that it had 1,000 Orbeez in it. We doubted that…. but they were pretty tiny.
We tied in math ….. We even did a math problem, If we have 1000 Orbeez and 24 students, how many Orbeez will each student get?
The math is too hard for them, but I still showed them how to do it, they loved seeing it all worked out.
Next, we put them in the water and discussed what was about to happen. All day we watched them grow. The students were so excited to see all the colors develop and we discovered that the clear ones are invisible under water! (This concept was used later when we learned about the glass frog that appears invisible underwater). They even tried to count them in the bowl to see if there really was 1000.
Exploring in Literacy Centers
The students couldn’t wait for our lesson the next day. During our center time, I pulled each of my 3 groups to my table. I let them touch the Orbeez, grab a handful, look at the colors, and watch them change in the water. Many had never seen or touched them before.
Then I gave them 3 mini sticky notes to write adjectives on them about the Orbeez. We put all the sticky notes together on the table and categorized them, then talked about how similar some were. We came up with some sentences too.
I gave each student a piece of binder paper. They were to write about the Orbeez using at least 3 (more for the higher groups) of the adjectives from the table. They could write sentences, a paragraph or a story. This is the opportunity where I was able to differentiate per group. My lowest group was just writing sentences, where my highest group was able to do a little story.
The students shared their sentences or stories with their group and then I bagged up the Orbeez and put the dry seeds in a different bag. Each kiddo went home with wet grown Orbeez and Orbeez to grow at home.
Was this Orbeez writing lesson in our ELA curriculum? Nope! There wasn’t anything even close. But there was a lesson on adjectives. This is a lesson in which these students were able to better grasp an idea of adjectives. They wrote sentences using those adjectives, explored adjectives and touched them. They were tangible and in front of them. It is one they will remember much more than a worksheet.
I challenge you to find a way to add some fun into your regular curriculum. Pick up on what your students are interested and run with it. I never would have thought to use the Orbeez, had my students not found them.
Our kids love to have fun. When they have fun on a regular basis they will learn to love coming to school.
Last week, I gave my student’s a behavioral assessment. Almost every student commented that we have fun in our class. This is my goal, GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!
Then at conferences this week, I heard from several parents that their child can’t wait to go to school every day, because our class is fun. One of the moms of a new student that started about 2 months ago said that her son dragged his feet to school every day at his old school. Now he gets up early and is excited to go to school.
Learning needs to be fun. When learning is fun kids want to be at school. Find that fine line of following the curriculum and adding fun to your day.