Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fun is the Byproduct of Rigorous, Meaningful Learning

Who said learning couldn't be fun?  Who said learning shouldn't be fun?  In my year of transformation, especially towards the end of it, my classroom has been called fun--AS A DEROGATORY WORD.

To that, I'm offended.

The truth: I NEVER think of fun when planning an educational unit; it's simply a byproduct of genuine, meaningful work.

And the fact that something "fun" is not learning is just wrong. Anyone with that view should get out of education. Do people NOT have fun when coming up with a new invention? A new idea? Practicing for a sport, a musical instrument? Why, then, shouldn't a classroom be that same kind of fun? Sure, it can be frustrating; learning often is. Sure, it can be time-consuming; learning often is. Sure, it can be rewarding; learning often is.

If it can be all of those things, why can't it be fun?

This week, both of my English classes wrapped up with projects: Advanced Composition created digital personal narrative essays and Survey of American Literature invented a 19th Century Literary Museum.

My students, on their journey to meaningful work had to slug through some pretty deep thinking, deep reading, and deep criticism.

Advanced Composition students deleted multiple beginnings before finding the right choice of topic. Then, they had to voice record themselves multiple times because the readings weren't quite right or they continuously stumbled on a word. After that, they had to work through some major video editing issues including how to add music to the piece without it being distracting. This is not fun. This is rigor. This is challenge. This is creation. The fun comes in the creation when, at the end of the process, students realize that their voices have power as many of the videos now have close to 100 views on YouTube.

Fun is a product of purposeful work.

The link to our playlist: Advanced Composition Digital Personal Narrative Playlist

Survey of American Literature students had to read challenging literature including Poe, Dickinson, and Hawthorne. Then, they had to contextualize it, figure out why it was important to the time and why it's lasted all these years. Then, the students had to figure out the best way to show their learning to an audience that would be in the room gawking at their creations. This stressed a lot of students out. Students were asking challenging questions: how do I connect literature to life? how do I make this meaningful for people who come in to spend fifteen minutes of their life looking at my work? This is not fun. This is rigor. This is thought. This is creation. The fun comes, again, in the creation when, at the end of the process, students realize that their creation made our superintendent think and made a woman in Cleveland comment on our live stream.

Fun, again, is a product of purposeful work.

The link to our recorded live stream: 19th Century Literary Museum

Don't just take my word for it.  Here are some comments from the students.

"I think I did pretty well on making a connection with people because I had at least 4 people come up to me later and ask me questions and that's never happened to me."

"Let me begin- with my love for video editing and writing. I'm constantly dreaming up new ideas on imovie and writing down all my thoughts on anything and everything I come across. I consider myself a writer and an amateur movie maker. To say the least- one of my favorite projects I've ever had in school. (It didn't even feel like homework!) During this assignment my writing evolved from little picture to big picture. I learned to say everything I wanted to say from 100 words to 10. I believe this was so effective with the help of the music and pictures. The whole time I was clearly thinking my audience was my family or anyone who knows my sisters and I. BUT- I just happen to have a very supportive Advanced Comp. teacher who shared my work with the whole district. Then my mother and aunt emailed the link to all of my family members. And the results... have been very rewarding! I've gotten so much excellent feedback. All great writing will lead to more great writing. So, moving forward I want to improve myself as a writer my pushing myself outside of my comfort zone."



What can I say? The students see the rigor. They feel the challenge.

And they have FUN while doing it.