As a long-time Middle and High school teacher, “bored” is a word I hear too often. Yes, Elementary school might have more parties and field trips but Middle and High school classes can be fun too! As secondary teachers, we can get caught up in the narrative that we have to get through the material so there’s no time for fun in the classroom. Teaching Algebra can be a demanding, fast-paced course, but over the years, there have been moments in my class that got us laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes.
Here are a few ways my colleagues and I have infused more laughter and celebration into our lessons:
- Be silly and softly self-deprecating: I play a campy math song from YouTube that the kids (ironically) sing along to. Later in the unit, I randomly set my phone alarm to play this song during class. I pretend that it is a phone call and act embarrassed that the song is my ring tone. The kids could not stop laughing about my corny math “ring tone”.
- Use jokes or memes: My daughter’s math teacher changed her computer desktop background to a different meme or joke every few days. She told me that she looked forward to seeing a new background as the teacher turned on the projector. Who wouldn’t laugh at, “Are you under 90 degrees? Because you’re looking acute!”
- Bring in other teachers: Another English teacher and I shared a group of the same students. He would write funny daily grammar sentences about me and I would write funny math problems about him. (Keep it lighthearted and make sure the students know that you’re really friends, and not actually teasing each other.)
- Share personal stories (with boundaries): I tell my class funny stories about my pets and family. It only takes a few moments, but these personal connections help build relationships.
- Bring in food: To study the volume of a cylinder, I bring in a can of cranberry sauce. I slice the gelatinous cylinder to visually explain how the formula is derived, and then, (with gloved hands) I pass out crackers and slices of cranberry for them to eat a “slice of the cylinder”. Some students have never seen cranberry sauce and it’s quite funny looking for them. To explore the ratio of the circumference of a circle to diameter (Pi), I bring in M&Ms to measure the parts of a circle. (Always check for allergens first!).
- Daily “guest” on slides: Jazz up your notes by adding images of your students. A High school teacher would randomly place a photo of a student with a thought bubble stating a key fact from the slide. Be sure to rotate images so everyone gets a chance to appear on a slide.
- Start class with music: the history teacher down the hall from me played Rebecca Black’s “Friday” song every Friday at the beginning of class. It never failed to get the kids (and neighboring teachers) smiling and dancing.
- Creative projects: We already have some concepts that are commonly set to music such as Quadratic Formula, Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, or Periodic Table. Take it up a notch by having the students film TikTok-style videos to accompany the songs. Flipgrid is a great tool for posting and sharing these videos.
- Reflect and chuckle: On the first day of school, my students complete an “about you” survey with basic questions such as, “What’s your favorite movie?”, “What do you see yourself doing at 25?” I collect these surveys and wait to read them aloud on the last day of class. As I read, they try to guess who I am reading about. The class has so much fun laughing at how “immature” their answers were (only written 10 months ago!). “I can’t believe I liked Trolls back then! ha-ha”. Also, be mindful not to read anything that would embarrass a student. It is a fun way to reflect and close out the school year.
Having Fun In The Classroom
Any of these examples might bring a little more fun in the classroom or they might fall flat – what is most important is that you find your own brand of humor. Humor that is lighthearted and silly will make your class feel more enjoyable and hopefully, you’ll never have to hear the word “bored” again (or at least, less often).
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