Have Some Serious Fun in Your Classroom

Serious Fun: Practical Strategies to Motivate and Engage Students
By Carolyn Hirst-Loucks and Kim P. Loucks
(Routledge/Eye on Education, 2013 – Learn more)

LauraVonStaden Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

Serious Fun focuses as much on the serious as on the fun, as the authors discuss how to make our content as well as key 21st century skills (the serious) relevant and engaging (the fun) for our students.

Carolyn Hirst-Loucks and Kim P. Loucks (a wife & husband team) begin by explaining the concept of serious fun and the research that supports why we should want to put more fun into our classrooms. They give examples, including how the use of music can increase student interest as we go about the serious business of learning.

The authors also address the likely pushback and nay-sayers and discuss how teachers can help administrators understand (1) what they may see in a seriously fun classroom, (2) why implementing these strategies are important, and (3) what the short- and long-term payoffs of a serious-fun strategy are for students, teachers and the community.

serious fun von staden

What’s inside the book

The bulk of the book focuses on practical strategies and how to implement them, along with ideas on how to tweak the process if needed. While many of the strategies are ones that may be familiar to teachers, the authors discuss them in light of the work of serious fun in the classroom. They give credit to the originators of each of the strategies, and in the last chapter of the book invite readers to send them their strategies for future updates or editions. This gives the book a collaborative flavor – presenting a compilation of engaging strategies and their uses in the classroom that’s similar to what teacher learning communities are designed to share.

The strategies are grouped into a series of chapters based on when/where they might most easily fit into lessons, including Seriously Fun Strategies for: Getting Ready to Learn, Class-Building and Team-Building, Processing Content, Movement, and Closure. This section finishes with a chapter on examples of Content-Specific Activities that would be easily adaptable to situations beyond the specific example given.

The four appendices are also very useful. The first appendix is a list of all the strategies with their estimated cost, teacher prep time and classroom time, as well as the page number on which the strategy is explained for quick reference. The second appendix offers specific strategies to “Break Out of the Homework Rut,” while the third gives a list of possible songs that could be used in each of the categories for which strategies were provided. The final appendix provides sample lesson plans to help teachers see how they might take the next step to making their classrooms “Seriously Fun.”

Serious Fun is an easy read with lots of helpful strategies for teachers to plug into their classrooms to motivate and engage students in learning in ways that will lead to more long term retention, deeper understanding and development of key 21st Century skills such as collaboration, problem solving and creativity to name a few. Carolyn Hirst-Loucks and Kim P. Loucks have created a resource well worth reading and keeping handy on your shelf of teaching ideas.

Laura Von Staden has a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology and a Master’s in Special Education. She is a Special Education middle school teacher in Tampa, Florida, where she serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she serves as a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates online professional development.

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