Fun is not fluff. Fun is not frivolous. Fun is a powerful force. Think about it. Human beings, and perhaps a few other higher animals, find it meaningful and desirable to have fun. Humans don’t count simple survival as the yardstick for a life well lived. Cyndi Lauper had it right. In 1983, Girls just want to have fun stayed at #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for two weeks in a row. “Humans just want to have fun” would have been a more accurate title, but not as catchy for sure. One of my favorite quotes is “It’s not the number of breaths you take - it’s the times that take your breath away.” A human wrote that.
Want proof that humans want and need fun ? Think about the travel industry. Every year humans spend billions of dollars on travel- to find fun. Toys are fun. Children want toys. Adults spend lots of money on toys… RV’s, jet skis, golf clubs- all for fun.
Here’s my point. When teachers design learning experiences that not only produce content mastery, but are also fun, they are partnering with a powerful ally. Inside the human brain, fun is not just fun. Fun is survival linked. The human brain is designed to master quickly and remember well anything that is linked to personal survival. Fun is linked- very linked. So, when teachers make a learning experience fun, they are strategically increasing retention and transfer and decreasing the need for review and re-teaching. Fun makes for more efficient and more memorable learning. Fun is survival linked and survival drives human attention and deep learning.
Recently I was watching a high school Spanish teacher conduct a lesson on grammar. It was the day after Valentine’s Day. She organized the class into teams and asked each team to submit a Valentine’s Day card with an original, romantic metaphor- in Spanish. Each team then shared their work and the class voted on the best romantic line. It was hilarious! They reacted to each effort with applause or groans. The winner was: “On the highway of love, you have a lot of curves and I have no brakes.” What fun! Make no mistake; they were getting the grammar right. The fun made it faster, easier, and more memorable. Fun is not just fun.