Enter the fun house

18th July 2008 at 01:00
In June, the Williams Report into the teaching of mathematics reached the conclusion that learning about numbers and shapes should be rooted in play

In June, the Williams Report into the teaching of mathematics reached the conclusion that learning about numbers and shapes should be rooted in play. I have no idea how much this report cost, but I do know that a quick chat with a few experienced teachers may well have saved the Department for Children, Schools and Families a few quid.

There is often a lack of fun and play in lessons that's rather disappointing: I'm not advocating classrooms like adventure playgrounds or teachers like Blue Peter presenters, but good teaching goes way beyond the miserable language of learning objectives and lesson outcomes.

There is no doubting the fact that the injection of fun into lessons is bound up with a teacher's relationship with a particular class - and it could be professional suicide to attempt activities that may not be taken seriously by pupils, especially if you are new to a particular group. But the incorporation of games, quizzes, impromptu role-plays, silly jokes and quirky stories into lessons can only improve everyone's time in the classroom. Good teachers have always stolen lines from TV presenters ("Is that your final answer?") and developed running jokes with their classes as a way of livening up the day.

Above all, the way in which teachers present material is critical. If you don't find it fun, engaging or fascinating then you'll need to learn to become a convincing actor - or be unsurprised at the slumped indifference of your class. It means being brave enough to be that bit inventive and imaginative - but your initiative will be rewarded.

Won't all this impact on results and grades? It certainly will: a class that has been engaged, even though some of the material may represent a departure from the accepted script, can undoubtedly be brought back to bread-and-butter tasks much more easily - and you can be sure that those learning objectives will have been fully met along the way.

Jon Berry is a senior lecturer at the school of education in Hertfordshire University.

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