So, this post is going to sound like I am the no fun police, but I hope you will hear me out. I think elementary schools in the United States have a fluff problem, and I believe it might be affecting children in a very negative way. I believe that it's also possible that it is making the jobs of middle school and high school teachers harder.
My kids are now in 3rd and 4th grade, and we are starting to see some struggles with motivation. Now part of that is an uninterest in particular topics which is natural, but I also think some of it stems from things like them getting worksheeted to death. Many of the instructional strategies that they are becoming accustomed to aren't fun, and in some instances they lessen the will to learn.
As a high school teacher, I had always wondered how we let kids get to me with basically two mindsets: I hate learning, or I have to get a good grade for college. Rarely did I get kids who just plain loved our topic of study and wanted to do it for the love of learning. While again, I think some of this stems from a student's personal preferences, but most of it is from poor instructional strategies that they have grown accustomed too.
So, why do motivation and the fluff go together? What do I mean by fluff? To me, in elementary school, there are several events and parties have nothing to do with instruction. I faced it with my children this week as they had holiday parties. Their reactions to these parties got me thinking. They were excited! They were motivated to go school! My question then became, "Why don't they react this way to learning?". Could it be that they see events like these as the fun at school and the learning is not?
I think there is something to the fluff affecting a student's motivation. Let's think about middle school and high school for a second. When kids get to those grades, many of the holiday party type perks are gone. Could that be why they think school is not fun? Think about foreign countries that are now seen as ahead of the United States in academics. What's the one common factor usually? They are rigid in their standards! I would imagine that the fluff is just not there in their primary grades.
As we move into the new year, I hope we can make learning fun. In the end, if kids enjoy learning we could add the fluff type things back in!