I remember my childhood of being a kid, who loved to go to school and learn new things. And now I look around just to see kids today suffering a lot with their study. A question arose in my mind: “Since why has the school become such a hell?” My answer is simple, just because they lost interest in studying. In this blog, I would like to share my personal experience in solving this problem to make learning fun, and also, to introduce to you my special assisting tool: animation.
Recently, I have been inspired to write new lyrics for “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” by Elton John. Yes, and I would definitely name the new song “Learning seems to be the hardest part”.
This idea came from the conversation between me and a cousin studying in grade 11, who could not stop complaining about how difficult it was for her to study in high school. It is not that the theories are too tough or the practice process is complicated. She can understand them all just like a kid understands her favorite animation. The problem is she can barely find the lessons interesting. As a consequence, she could barely concentrate on those boring lessons, which resulted in her bad performance at school.
That is why it is so hard for us to learn these days, why it feels like we are being tortured while spending hours and hours in class.
Why do we need to make learning fun?
A quote from Marc Anthony “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life” can be applied when it comes to learning. As you know, learning bears great resemblance to a job in some aspects due to its lifetime engagement with us and the benefit it brings us, both physically and mentally. Therefore, if we cannot like learning, life is going to be miserable because, as I said, learning is an activity we perform every single day from our childhood till the very last breath.
Let’s get back to my cousin’s case! She absolutely knows the purpose of studying is to go the college, get a good job or even just to live well. Learning is what she needs and has to do, not what she likes, that is why she does not want to study and cannot study effectively. Her mind began to reject learning anything as the feeling of terror started to grow. More seriously, the first thing appearing in her mind every morning when she had to go school is “No!!! I don’t want to go to school!!!” It will not be an issue if this problem only stays for a few days or even a few weeks, but if things keep going this way, she might build up a wall against learning, not only in high school but also for the rest of her life.
Therefore, creating joy in learning is now the first priority on our to-do list, wish list, or any lists we have!
Secret recipe for fun learning
I came back to my high school and asked my teacher to help with this case. She offered me the position of teaching assistant for some of her classes as she was struggling with the same problem. Her students have two things in common with my cousin: one, all of them are brilliant kids and two, their performances are not good at all as the consequence of uninteresting lessons. I have asked for advice from my teachers and my colleagues about what I should do to improve the situation and they suggested that no matter what I do, I should follow this “recipe” in two steps to make learning fun. Therefore, I have tried some methods strictly following this “recipe” and three most effective ones are playing educational games, adding some experiments to theories and using educational animation to make my students enjoy learning.
Ingredient 1: Sound
Indeed, sound can easily attract people, especially students in the class who are busy sleeping or talking or surfing web with their phones. All three methods mentioned above used sounds to gather students, either to introduce the activities, give instructions or just to start the animation.
Ingredient 2: Image
At the same time with the first one or a few seconds later, you should add the second ingredient, which is image. I used body movements and tools to describe what the student needed to do like how to play this game and how the experiments should go on. This stage is quite easy and all three methods won students’ attention. The hard part lies in the last stage.
Ingredient 3: Educational Content
This step is much harder because we have to bring out the suitable content and at the same time maintain the interest you have gained in step 1 with sound and images. Specifically, we have to maintain the attention of all class, because if any of them stop paying attention, they will start to interrupt others’ concentration, and gradually, all the class will no longer care about the activities.
In this stage, the most successful method is animation. Games only worked with small groups of students directly participating in the activities, others would start to feel bored and go back to their personal stuff. With the experiments, we divided students into small groups. The group leader controlled the situation, my teacher and I would only supervise and support when they needed. This method brought about better result than the first one, however, not all groups functioned well, some groups collapsed then, interest in learning started to fade.
Animation – An effective tool to make learning fun
Animation did not fail my expectation, even till the very last minute and even after that. Let’s take a closer look at how it worked. At the beginning, most students do not care what my teacher and I were doing, and then, I played an animation created by myself. The video started with rhythm, not rock ‘n roll but a ballad song, however, some students looked at the screen right when the music began. It took them a few seconds to realize what is going on and then immediately focus on the screen. The first animation was quite simple, the content was not delicate enough but it still can keep students curious and watching till the end as they have never seen a video with such unique content ever before.
After the class, I conducted a survey on students’ opinion of this new teaching method. 70% liked the animation of that day and even asked where they can download it to watch again or to share with other friends. 29% thought the animation was fine, however still needed lots of improvement. 100% said they understood and still remembered all the information and were willing to see another animation. Well, at least, I saw some hope.
Some suggestions to achieve optimal result
Concentrating on the educational content
As I have mentioned, the design and content of my first animation was simple. Before making the next one, I had to review my content repeatedly and continuously to make sure it was interesting enough to keep my students focus but clear and easy enough for them to understand. I even asked my cousin for help with some objective comments.
Elaborating sound and image of the animation
To prepare for the next class, I got help from a friend of mine, who was working for an animation studio. She helped me to perfect my video to the smallest details. She even gave me some advice on improving my message included. This time, all students complemented on sound and image effect and also the content included. We carried out a small test after class, the result was significant. Nearly all of them remember all information correctly without cheating and I almost burst into tears to see it.
Combining animation with other tools
However, it did not satisfy me as sometimes the class was still quiet, and I could sense their mood going down. Therefore, I combined some other methods with animation. I wanted them to involve more in the class and communicate with each other. I created some cards and activity sheets with the animation characters to open a discussion. That’s when I finally found the solution to the problem of how to make learning fun.
I came back to my cousin’s case and use animation to tutor her, I could really feel her joy of learning at that moment. She even used animation for her presentation at school, along with some other games and experiments. By hearing her happy voice via phone, I could imagine how this method succeeded.`
I just want to emphasize that animation is such an evolution in making learning fun thanks to their significant ability to attract and maintain attention and deliver our unique idea in such an interesting way. However, to achieve amazing results, the educational content is very important. You should check the content carefully to make sure the message lying in the video is exactly what you want to send. One more thing, I highly recommend looking for assistance from professionals to illustrate your information perfectly.
English Teacher at Step Up English Center Vietnam