Many young grade school children have returned to the four walls called a classroom. They will spend over nine months of their time in these walls attempting to pack a plethora of boring facts in their noggin to ace the next test. In addition, students don’t find extracurricular activities interesting anymore because the teachers of the activities have created an academic excess of syllabi and homework. In summary, “fun time” has become nothing more than “school time” during afterhours. Being an in-home teacher myself, I will share a few tips to make extracurricular activities fun and engaging without becoming overly academic.
For starters, many teachers make the assumption that children must complete some amount of written homework in order to grasp a subject. False. Many children learn by completing hands-on activities and games while in extracurricular classes. As a music teacher myself, I found creating games while in class that are based on academic techniques, such as learning solfege, allows students to retain the information much better than requiring a written homework sheet for completion. By doing hands-on activities instead of filling out a worksheet, students actually process the fun yet educational information via different pathways in the brain (sparkcharter.org). Because the student is mentally and physically engaged in the process, the student is more likely to master skills or techniques for long term use instead of temporarily memorizing uncategorized facts.
In addition, assigned “homework” is allowed but under unconventional terms. When assigning homework to students, I never send home a worksheet to fill out. Although I am not against written work for reinforcement material while in class, I find take home work is not as productive for reinforcing and mastering a new skill. As an alternative to hard copy homework, I give them fun techniques or games to reinforce academic concepts. For example, vocal exercises that can be completed with the student’s Camelbak water bottle is a wonderful alternative to having a writing prompt to explain the vocal exercise the student is working on. This style of learning can be applied to many different areas of academic or extracurricular study. Many teachers struggle with students who are not engaged and, as a result, the student fails to successfully master the subject. So next time you consider handing out a piece of paper for homework, you might want to trade it for a fun game that could be played with siblings.
Although written work and text analysis is necessary for some fundamental concepts, it is the duty of the teacher to make the text come alive to engage the student’s learning process and memory. Many teachers have wonderful resources for text references. However, they fail to engage the student with activities and hands-on processes that make boring concepts fun and create new neurological pathways for long term memory. As a teacher, one should always see the classroom from the students’ point of view to keep the material interesting. After all, who wants to attend a class with an opening address that’s as bad as Ben Stein’s intro from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? No me.