As TEFL teachers, we are continually forced to walk a razor’s edge of making classes fun and engaging, but also ensuring that the desired educational goals are met. This is a difficult thing to do and can at times even feel impossible. Often times, classes are either overly focused on new and crazy games or in simply trying to cram knowledge in the students’ minds.
The truth is that successful TEFL classes are ones that embrace and incorporate fun. As long as the teacher is aware of and focused on the educational goals in the class, there is absolutely no reason to make your lessons dry, or to feel guilty for playing games.
Read on for a full discussion of fun in the classroom and ways to check that you are making sure that you are getting to the meat of the lesson, and not JUST focusing on fun. Or, if you would like five suggestions for how to make your TEFL classes more fun, you can gain access to the resource by clicking on the link below.
Fun as Motivation
Imagine with me that your goal is to teach the present continuous. You could simply put the form on the board. Show a few examples. Show what it means. Drill the language with the students and have them fill in a worksheet. You could even have an activity where students walk around with the flashcards and ask/answer what different people are doing. This may contain the main components of a typical TEFL lesson, but it’s simply not that much fun.
If your objective is to drill the language, why not make it more fun by incorporating a game like charades? If you want them to practice writing the form, why not make it a writing race? If your goal is to get them to mingle and practice the language, why not turn this into a game?
There is no reason not to make it fun, and doing so will keep your students’ minds active. If they are having fun, they are motivated to come to class and to give it their all. Why make it painful?
Fun for the Teacher
There is also something to be said for making a lesson fun for yourself. I have enough games in my repertoire that I could probably get by without ever trying a new one. However, that would get very boring for me. I would lose my enthusiasm, and it would show.
I usually challenge myself to create at least one new game a week and to use it with a number of different classes. By the end of the week, I’ve tweaked it enough that it is another game for my portfolio. Trying something new is invigorating and fun…even if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time.
The last thing you want to do is dread coming to class. I recommend that you do whatever you have to to make teaching an enjoyable experience for yourself.
Fun as Reward
Inevitably, you are going to run into lessons that get a bit difficult. With my IELTS classes, these are usually the writing lessons. While I do what I can to make them fun and engaging, there’s no way around it, it’s hard work to write a good essay. Likewise, with young learners doing assessments–it’s necessary, but it’s not really fun.
This is where the art of negotiating fun comes in. When you see your students becoming fatigued from difficult lessons and starting to lose focus, let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For example:
“After the test, we will have a party!”
“This is going to be a difficult lesson, but provided you finish your essay in the allotted time, we’ll play x (whatever game they are really into at the time).”
“Now, read the conversation with your partner, then we’re going to play a NEW game!”
Similarly, it’s sometimes useful to put your lesson plan on the board, and to highlight the games that are coming up. It helps the students to push through activities that they may not enjoy as much as others.
Fun for Fun’s Sake
I remember a teacher who once dressed up in a full robot costume that she’d created out of cardboard boxes. She’d used glitter and spray-paint to create a very realistic effect. It must have taken her ages to make. When I asked why she was doing it, she simply answered, because it was fun.
Of course she had a lot of activities centered around her being a robot, but those same activities could have been done in another way. This was fun for fun’s sake.
One of the great things about our industry is the amount of creativity that you can bring to it. There are an infinite number of ways to teach any specific lesson. Why not make it fun.
Balancing the Fun
This is a quick caveat. In your quest to make your classes fun and enjoyable, it’s important to remember that these are indeed classes. The students, or their parents, didn’t enroll for one long party. They have goals and expectations.
To make sure that you’re on the right track, do a quick check after each lesson to see if the aims were met. When you come up with a great idea for a fun game, don’t forget to plan the interactions and the language that the students will be using. If the students aren’t using the language, the game has no real value other than being fun. The goal here is to make your classroom activities fun AND valuable.
If you’d like five practical and simple ways to make your classroom more fun, you can gain access to the resource by clicking on the button below.