Fun things are engaging. Engagement brings extended time-on-task. Extended time-on-task leads to better test scores. Although we may whine and complain about standardized tests, in many ways rightly so, don’t we all want our students to score very well? Isn’t it FUN when they do? Isn’t it NOT fun when they don’t? Why is fun-at-school held in such low esteem? People have told me that if students are having fun, they aren’t learning anything! Huh?
A high level of time-on-task is a major indicator that things are going well in a classroom. Focused attention results in more than rote memorization or the ability to repeat back what is “learned”. Consuming attention brings thought, understanding, and concept development. It leads to connections, bridges, and widening of perception. It changes the way people see the world.
I am always surprised when children mark incorrect answers on standardized tests when I know they know the right answer because they routinely do them independently day after day in class. I think this happens because they are missing a tiny little connection—something in the way the problem is presented on the test is different than they are used to and they miss the connection. Maybe I haven’t provided enough activities to foster larger thinking about the problem. If the children are practicing a skill day after day just for the sake of practicing, maybe they are losing rather than gaining understanding. Maybe I need to provide more inventive ways to use a skill, in a number of different applications, rather than require students to rotely practice it. When children, all people really, are having fun, they are using the skills they’ve learned without realizing they are using the skills they have learned. The more they use them the stronger the skills become. The more settings in which they apply them the more connections and understandings develop. When I ask myself, “How can I make this skill fun to learn and practice?” I find it easier to teach and, guess what, I have more fun, too.
School should be fun because it will increase thoughtful time-on-task and improve connections and applications of skills across subjects–and that leads to deeper learning which results in better test scores!
Originally posted on another website on March 22, 2010.