A defence of fun.

%22Fun,_off_the_job_keeps_him_on_the_Job%22_-_NARA_-_514789I wrote last week about values in the classroom. One of the values conflicts that often comes up is fun vs learning. A common complaint of English teachers in Korea is that they are expected to just have fun in class and don’t do any ‘real’ teaching. “I feel more like a babysitter than a teacher.” complained one of my friends. Obviously fun can lead to more learning. Students need to be engaged to learn things. If they’re bored they won’t pay much attention and won’t learn much. The real issue is when fun is treated as a means in itself rather than a means to the end of learning things. Some teachers might feel pressure to choose fun even when it leads to less learning.

It’s okay to have these classes where fun is the first priority once in a while. It might even be a good idea. Having these lessons once in a while can make for happier classrooms. Students who have fun less serious classes are more likely to work harder in more serious classes. The fun classes can sometimes be a well valued reward for hard work in other classes.

The second reason is that it’s important to create a less hierarchical atmosphere in the classroom. Having a class where you play some games can help students feel more confident about talking in other classes. When your students have beaten you at scrabble, they become much less scared of making mistakes in front of you.

Finally, a lot more learning might be going on than we think when we use these classes. Explaining rules, for example, is a good authentic language use. Playing games often brings up lots of emergent language, either through words someone doesn’t know or though stories people tell each other while playing games.

These kinds of lessons would lose their efficacy if they were all that ever happened, but as a once a month thing I think they’re a good idea. Fun things that I’ve used in the past were board games like Scrabble or Guess Who. For a special, end of course book, treat for my adult class I’ve taken them for bingsoo a few times and just brought some conversation questions in case conversation dries up. The first priority here isn’t to learn lots but just to have fun, but these classes still seem really valuable experiences and well worth doing. I’d be really interested in hearing from any readers who have suggestions of fun activities to use in class.