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It’s OK to Have Fun!

October 25, 2010

Wonderful things have happened in our classroom since we started blogging. Thanks to our blog we have a new special moment in our class: “Singing Fridays”.

My students have to sit for an international exam soon, and as you might well know, exam preparation can be extremely stressful and exhausting. One day, while we were practicing for the oral exam, the question “Have you ever sung in front of your class?” came up. To my absolute surprise Mark*  said he wanted to share a song he had published on our blog and asked me to come to the front of the class. I was absolutely amazed when he started singing in front of everyone. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Mark, an exceptional kid who is really shy and lacks confidence, was singing and boy was he singing! It was such a magical moment. What a beautiful voice! Such talent! Listening to him sing was absolutely inspiring. Everybody started clapping and cheering his name. Mark, his parents and I have worked together pretty hard to help him gain confidence. He has made great progress, but I never would have imagined he would sing in front of everyone. Few minutes later, something even more incredible happened…Sophie* stepped in front of the class and started singing another song that had also been shared on our blog. Mark had led the way and now Sophie was following his steps… Such great time were we having together that we decided to repeat this every Friday.

My students love our Singing Fridays! I’m amazed how hard they work to prepare their songs. What’s more, it has also helped Mark and Sophie gain confidence and their attitude in class is different now. Kids have even asked me to have them sing on our Open House at the end of the year. Mark and Sophie’s role in the group is also different now. They are never left apart and kids are always inviting them to play. I have even noticed kids asking them for advice on what songs to sing.

For English language learners every opportunity to be exposed to the English language outside the classroom is important and this has led to students looking for songs, listening to them and going through their lyrics at home! What’s more, one girl has even written her own song.
So incredible is what happens every time we have our Singing Fridays that after reading Joan Young‘s post “The Power of Spontaneity” I was inspired to bring more of these moments into our classroom. So we started having our “Singing Fridays” event before every exam preparation class. This has helped them relax and even their attitude towards exam preparation has become more positive.

I strongly believe we need many fun moments in our classrooms. It helps build better learning environments. Kids feel safer and have a better attitude when having fun. I’ve also noticed that it helps build a better community. Not only can teachers connect in a deeper way with their students but students can also connect between them in a stronger way.

I sometimes get the impression that saying the word “fun” in education is like saying “we are not learning”. I feel that is absolutely wrong. Don’t you feel more motivated to learn if you know you’ll be having fun too? So do kids! I feel that combining learning and fun is really powerful. We shouldn’t be afraid of embracing these moments in our classroom. Children love to have fun and to play. Kids feel eager to learn while having fun. Let’s challenge ourselves and bring more fun and play moments into our classrooms. Not only will we be motivating our students, we’ll also be fostering the love for learning in them.

* Real names have been changed.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2010 10:03 pm

    Ugh, I know what you’re saying. Last week the class was playing phonics/reading games on the computer, and one kid stalked off to sit in the corner. When I asked him if he’d like to play with us, he said “You’re not supposed to play games in school!” LOL! I had to explain that it’s okay to have fun and play games because they are learning games. He joined and had fun, not to mention dominated the game.

    On another note, I think being in your class would be fun. You’re teaching the most important things a teacher can – confidence, esteem, acceptance. These are the most meaningful gifts we can leave our kids!

    • October 25, 2010 11:54 pm

      Thanks so much Matt! I really appreciate your kind words! I’m sure being in your class would be fun too!
      Thanks for sharing your story! You’re making a difference for your students. I’m sure this boy will never forget that day! Thanks again!

  2. October 25, 2010 10:03 pm

    Greta: I am SO excited to hear this news! Isn’t it amazing what kids can do? So glad they are volunteering to sing on their own and write their own tunes, too!

    I often have to ‘fight’ the good fight with people who consider my K-5 music classes as nothing other than play time. Are we playing? Of COURSE we are! Are we also learning? YES! When did we forget that the best type of learning comes through play?

    Great points in your post! I’m happy your students have someone like you to encourage them!

    • October 26, 2010 12:06 am

      Thanks for your words Michelle! It means a lot coming from a wonderful teacher like you! It’s sad when people forget that play is an important part of learning. Unfortunately it happens quite a lot, I often have to “fight” too… Sharing our stories is so important, we can show everyone how wonderful it can be. Thanks again!

  3. October 25, 2010 10:05 pm

    Greta, you are so right and this is something I have also embraced this year in my classroom. In fact, you have just inspired me to write another post about loosening up. I believe students learn best if they trust each other and also can relax a little. No one can think straight if they are too wound up. So I am absolutely stealing the idea of having students sing or perform for the class; what a great community builder. As head of the talent show as well it certainly fits in with my philosophy of school. Keep it up and don’t let others tell you that you may not have fun in the classroom. I think the best teachers are the ones that know how to balance work and fun and make it seem like one big thing. I have a feeling you are one of those teachers.

    • October 26, 2010 12:13 am

      Thanks so much Pernille! I’m so glad you’ll be having students sing or perform for the class! You’ll see how enriching it is! You will all have such a great time. Your students are so lucky to have you! Please tell me how it goes!
      I’m so looking forward to your new post! I’m really glad my post has inspired you. I’m sure you’ll write another amazing post!

  4. October 25, 2010 10:28 pm

    Greta,

    First off, thanks for mentioning my post! Second, and most importantly, thanks for sharing such a wonderfully inspiring post. I worked for an administrator, thankfully in the past, who could not handle when I called Friday, “Fun Friday.” We would have constant battles where he would insist that rigorous could not be fun. I completely disagree.
    You have created such a magical, empowering learning environment for your students. I would love to see them in action one day if that were possible, via skype or video.
    You are truly a gift.
    Thank you🙂

    • October 26, 2010 12:24 am

      Thanks Joan! First of all, thank you for inspiring me with your post! Singing before exam preparation has made such a difference! Thanks for your kind words too.
      Thanks for sharing your story with me! Fun Friday sounds great, so sad that people think learning can’t be fun.
      I can’t film the kids. I will try to record them while singing… We could probably organize a Skype call after the international exam, it’s early in Nov. It’d be great! Thanks again!

  5. Gail permalink
    October 26, 2010 12:14 am

    Greta,

    I read this post with a smile on my face. How wonderful to hear about your once shy children becoming the stars of “Singing Fridays”. Something as simple as singing has changed Mark and Sophie and made an impact on the rest of the class. Children are under such pressure that it’s important for them to have an outlet. Learning should be fun. Good for you for starting “Singing Fridays”, a tradition they will never forget.

    Best,
    Gail

    • October 26, 2010 12:34 am

      Hi Gail! Thanks so much for your comment! Fun moments are so important… We need to encourage those moments. As you said, I’m sure my students will never forget our “Singing Fridays” and I won’t either… Thank you Gail, your support means a lot to me.

  6. Trisha permalink
    October 26, 2010 12:56 am

    Thanks Greta! I often feel guilty sometimes when we are having Fun and Laughing as we are Learning! Although, I know this is a Healthy part of Learning and Growing…I am not sure everyone feels this way. We can engage and learn through each other with Fun Activities and learn about Special Qualities we possess from one another. Laughter is a Powerful Healer! Thanks for the reminder and for bringing fun, music and joy to your learners.

    • October 26, 2010 9:51 am

      Thank you so much Trisha! I totally agree: “Laughter is a powerful healer!” I think many people feel guilty when bringing fun into the classroom, because the word fun is connected with “not learning” We can be serious, responsible educators and still have fun moments in our classes. It’s up to us that know how important it is to share our stories and make other educators aware. Thanks again!

    • October 26, 2010 6:26 pm

      Isn’t it so true that sometimes we can feel like someone might be “watching” us as we dare to have fun in our classrooms? Thank heavens for teachers who know the immeasurable value of laughter and enjoyment in the learning process!

      • October 26, 2010 11:59 pm

        Thanks Elizabeth! I think that happens because many people think learning can’t be fun. They forget that being fun doesn’t mean it isn’t serious too… We need teachers who know the value of fun and laughter and we also need admins that encourage fun and play moments in their schools. Thank you for your comment and support! Love having you in my PLN!

  7. October 26, 2010 6:22 am

    Greta, Learning and fun can go hand in hand. As a principal walking around our school, it thrills me to see children having fun while engaging in a school lesson. It takes a special kind of teacher to provide the environment to make this happen. I applaud you and all in the profession who have the skills to set this stage. I just read a new book The Edutainer. This book would be a great guide to help teachers provide those magical moments in the classroom. Singing Friday sounds awesome. Let’s hope this message is contagious and become pandemic.

    • October 26, 2010 10:04 am

      Wow Rich! Thanks so much! It means a lot coming from you. I’m sure you get to see children having fun a lot in your school!
      I’ve ordered The Edutainer after reading your post. Can’t wait to read it! I like what you said: “Let’s hope this message is contagious and become pandemic” Yes! T
      Thanks again Rich!

  8. October 26, 2010 7:47 am

    Greta,
    Great post! One of our teachers does a “Friday dance” activity with her class. Each Friday they learn a new “dance” and the kids have an absolute blast! What a great way to build community… and how can you have a bad day starting off with the limbo or cha-cha slide?🙂

    • October 26, 2010 10:06 am

      Thanks for your comment Lyn! I love the idea of Friday Dance! Sounds awesome! There’s no way you can have a bad day starting off with a dance!
      I’ll steal the idea if you don’t mind! Thanks again Lyn, your support means a lot!

  9. October 26, 2010 9:20 am

    Another great post, Greta! I love how you inspire your students to do such wonderful things. You really take advantage of these great moments, and you encourage them to learn in new and exciting ways! Your students are very lucky to have you as their teacher!

    Aviva

    • October 26, 2010 10:08 am

      Wow Aviva! Thank you! I really appreciate your support and encouragement. It’s important to take advantage of these moments, because wonderful things can happen!
      I’ve learned so much from you! You’re a wonderful teacher and I’m sure you have lot of these great moments in your classroom too. Thanks again!

  10. October 26, 2010 3:15 pm

    I love that you have singing Fridays! Clearly you have made your classroom a place where students feel safe to express themselves. What a neat way to build community and let your students shine.

    • October 26, 2010 11:08 pm

      Thanks for your kind words and comment Kelly! It means a lot coming from you! We really enjoy our Singing Fridays.

  11. October 26, 2010 6:24 pm

    Greta,
    How wonderful! It’s so nice to hear about these moments. They can only come from teachers who truly love what they do and love their students. Thanks for sharing you great new tradition!

    • October 26, 2010 11:11 pm

      Thanks so much Elizabeth! I really appreciate your words! I agree with you, it so important to share these stories. I love hearing about them too. Thanks again!

  12. Shelly Sanchez Terrell permalink
    October 26, 2010 7:02 pm

    Greta,

    What a great idea! Helps students realize English can be fun because we have to remember that learning a language is also very stressful. By singing, though, the students are able to play with the language. This also helps them learn about the music they hear and the different ways words can be used to express meaning.

    • October 26, 2010 11:21 pm

      Thanks Shelly! I totally agree learning a language is really stressful, these moments help a lot. Playing and having fun help students have a better attitude towards language learning. Thanks for your support Shelly!

  13. October 26, 2010 9:39 pm

    hey Greta! Good to hear your experiences!
    I have always fought for a anxiety-free environment in class. We, teachers of other languages, have to find a way to insert humor in our daily-basis.
    I have long been studying the effects of humor in education and you won’t believe the impact it might have on one’s learning. It goes without saying that kids are more prone to receive the benefits of it. And how fun it is to have fun with them!
    The reason I wake up at 5am every day is that I myself have fun with my kids. Not leaving behind their needs and desires.
    I love your blog!
    keep up the good work!

    • October 26, 2010 11:38 pm

      Wow Bruno, thanks for your kind words! I totally agree with you! I have so much fun with my students too and that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about teaching. Learning should be fun. Thanks for sharing your story Bruno! I’m so glad you’re part of my PLN!

  14. October 26, 2010 11:47 pm

    Fantastic! I remember hearing about this idea during the VRT conference. Love it. My kids have DPA at school. The whole school does the same two dances every day at school. The older kids lead. Even the teachers get a workout. It’s fantastic for all. Here is a glimpse: http://my.englishclub.com/video/what-is-dpa

    • October 27, 2010 12:07 am

      Thank you Tara! I did mention our Singing Fridays on the presentation! I thought it’d be a good idea writing the whole story. Incredible things keep happening every day we sing. Today before exam preparation, two girls sang a song they had written together and then 4 of the boys sang a Beatles song (chorus included!) so wonderful!
      I just checked out your post! Your kids’ video is so cute! DPA sounds amazing, I wish every school had that here! Thanks for sharing it!

  15. October 30, 2010 1:08 am

    Congratulations Greta! You are doing a great job with your students! Get them to sing in front of the class is definitely not an easy thing to do! Making it FUN is certainly a nice way of breaking down that wrong idea you said before! This is something we have to work a lot with their parents and that’s ‘kinda’ hard!
    Keep posting, I love reading about your experiences in class!
    Take care!😉

    • October 31, 2010 5:32 pm

      Thanks so much Mario! I really appreciate your words. It can sometimes be hard to help others understand that bringing fun into our classrooms is important, but it’s so worth doing. Thanks again for your support!

  16. estelateacher permalink
    October 31, 2010 11:18 pm

    Hola Greta!!!!

    Hi Greta, (I keep spelling it GREAT, I think it’s just cuz I do think your posts and your work is simply GREAT indeed….) Anyways, I have just started getting my EFL students blogging and would like to ask you a question….how did you get to actually ENGAGE them on this? I mean, I’ve been reading (and commenting on some – promise will comment more) your students blogs, and you have there a great atmosphere going…. I mean, it’s not like they are doing a forced homework…..no….instead, they are posting videos they like, they are telling stories they went through….it’s so realistic, and natural, and meaningful language…they are sharing …. I just wanted some ideas/suggestions/tips…. what, or how did you talk them into being so natural….what were the guidelines?????

    Would really appreciate hearing from such a wonderful and dedicated educator like you,

    all the best,

    cheers,

    Estela Teacher (@estelateacher) – Brazil

    • November 1, 2010 10:11 am

      Wow, Estela! Thank you for your kind words. It really means a lot to me. Truth is, it was Mark who started it and kids started following his steps. I just saw the opportunity. What I did do was work really hard since the very beginning to connect with my students. I talk to them a lot, play with them. I work hard to build a safe environment where they can have fun, feel safe and learn at the same time. From the very beginning I make sure they know that it’s OK to make mistakes. Blogging has helped a lot, because writing for such an audience has made them gain confidence. If you check our blogs you’ll see kids writing about how important or famous they feel. Blogging has helped us build a great environment too.
      I’d never connect blogging with homework for example, I can suggest a topic, but they are free to blog. I explained to them that they could share their thoughts, stories, videos, etc.
      Our first post was for our book fair project: “Let’s gather and spread good news”. So they were asked to share good news. I sometimes give them ideas. For example, when we had our reading buddies event, I said you can blog about it if you can. Same thing for Mother’s day and Children’s day, but I’d never tell them they “have to blog”. I don’t know if this is useful for you. Let me know if I can be of any help. Thanks again, I really appreciate your support.

      • estelateacher permalink
        November 2, 2010 3:39 pm

        Great, Thanks again for such supporting words and tips… I really appreciate that!!! Now, I have started a blogging project with my students….the first post I asked them to comment on a piece of news they read online, then I let them free, but what happened was that no one was into doing it for fun….they just kept asking me how many points they’d get for it…. oh boy, it is kind of hard to get these kids doing things just for the heck of it, you know….there is always an excuse, like ” I have no time for that” , or ” that is too difficult”…. but what keeps me going is the fact that at least a few of them get the idea that they are not just learning a bunch of grammar rules and words….they are learning new/cool things with this new language….Well, I will consider your tips from now on, and let’s see how it goes!!!!

        Again, thanks for being such a dedicated teacher/”sharer”

        Cheers,

        Estela

  17. Aaron Griffin permalink
    November 9, 2010 11:59 pm

    Great post! I am so glad to hear that creativity is being used in the classroom! I believe this is the key to success with students. We have to get out of the mold and reach out with technology and innovative ways to learn. Singing is a great way to learn! Thank you for your ideas and implementing them in the classroom. Great job!

    • November 10, 2010 8:52 pm

      Thanks so much Aaron! I really appreciate your kind words. I agree with what you said: “we have to get out of the mold and reach out with technology and innovative ways to learn” That’s what we should encourage in our classrooms if we want to create meaningful learning opportunities for our children! Thanks again!

  18. November 12, 2010 12:30 pm

    Another fantastic story!

    Perfect for learning Italian.
    David

    • November 12, 2010 11:32 pm

      Thanks again David! It means a lot coming from a wonderful writer like you! I loved the song you shared! I don’t speak Italian, but I loved the music and video! Thanks so much!

  19. April 15, 2013 4:24 pm

    Great post.

  20. October 2, 2014 9:55 am

    Just fantastic, Greta! I´m a native English teacher living and working in Argentina. I really want to blog and or sing (preferably both!) with my young students! What an inspiration you are. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the world! I plan to find a nice way to blog with my students but I haven´t done this yet! We all go through our teaching challenges and as we have just finished our exams, I feel they deserve a fun break from the normal routine. Laughter and FUN is so essential to learning!.. Thank you and hope I can share a success story with you!! Lisa Benson Alarcon

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