Learning With Laughter

With the stress of exam season still heavy in the air, I thought we could all seek some light(er) relief in this post. Through my experience of teaching all ages, there has been one common key to success that has stuck out for me – FUN. That’s right, learning does not have to be all about rules and regulations for it to be successful; often it’s when we’re enjoying ourselves that we learn the most, without even noticing.

The other day I was thinking about my sister and myself, and how much we differ when it comes to education. I always enjoyed school, liked learning new things, and generally didn’t struggle with anything apart from maths (what on EARTH is long division all about anyway?). My sister, however, was the complete opposite. School was a struggle, and learning facts, figures and rules were really not her bag. When it came to more creative subjects, however, she flourished; areas such as drama and creative writing were her forte.

As I began thinking about this, it led me to my realisation that maybe this was because these subjects were free from the more rigorous rules of others such as sciences, and therefore she felt more able to enjoy herself and have fun – a somewhat foreign concept in today’s over-examined school system. With this in mind, I considered my own teaching experience, and the techniques that worked the best for my students. One parallel between my time tutoring and my sister’s time at school was immediately apparent – fun is key in the classroom.

Don’t get me wrong, rules and regulations have their place, and learning has to have structure. The pit that one can fall into, however, is focusing so much on learning in a certain manner, say by endless grammar exercises, that the challenge and vitality is taken out of the learning process. Moreover, if learning is done in its majority by memorising, rather than internalising the subject, the subject’s very essence becomes meaningless; you’re simply learning words on a page, not what they truly mean.

In my experience, the best way to get students to truly grasp information is to have them play with it. By allowing them the time to explore a subject in all its forms – for example in my case, by playing Spanish bingo, learning the lyrics to ‘Despacito’, or dressing up like a flamenco dancer – not only does the student begin to associate learning the subject with fun, but they also use more senses to learn it than just sight by reading words on a page.

This concept of enjoyable education is applicable to both children and adults, if not even more so for the more aged learners. In the majority of cases, adults are learning a language for fun, in their spare time, and therefore the lessons need to reflect this and be worthy of the client’s money. Obviously, however, I won’t be caught putting on a play with one of my 60 year-old students, but laughter is still a wonderful teacher’s aide. For my older students, I’ve found brainteasers in French and Spanish are an excellent way to practice both grammar and vocab, whilst taking a break from more traditional, snore-worthy gap-fill exercises. Other ways I’ve found to bring enjoyment to my lessons for adults are French wine tasting (a personal favourite) and Spanish tapas tasting – a treat for the mind and the stomach!

It is my strong belief that learning should be an exciting, involving, enjoyable process – one that opens your mind, simultaneously planting fond memories and strong educational foundations. By straying from the beaten path, and incorporating games and more expressive exercises into the learning process, your material won’t get lost, it’ll make friends with the learner, and stay with them for life.