Thinking about joyful, efficient classrooms this week has me remembering a visit to a 6th grade classroom a few years ago. Students were practicing the transition from “silly to serious” by repeating intervals of running, talking, laughing and then quickly quieting down and taking their seats to face the teacher. It’s a move from Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion meant to give teachers the confidence that they can “let kids be kids” and still manage to regain control of the class and focus on learning.
So I’ve been thinking about the balance of silly and serious in the classroom, and invite you to think about it, too, as you head into the weekend.
Today a colleague of mine had her 10th graders play “review kick ball,” where students “pitched” content questions to an opposing “batter,” who in turn “kicked a single” by answering correctly. If the batter’s guess was off base, outfielders could step in with an answer to get the “out,” and if they could not, a “strike” was recorded and a new question “pitched.” For a particularly insightful answer, the teacher could award a double, triple, or home run at her discretion.
Could you play this in a classroom? Sure. But she sensed that kids needed more exercise and physical activity, so they headed out to the soccer field and physically ran bases as they answered questions and scored runs.
I’ve seen other colleagues prioritize creative projects – murals, skits, or digital posters – over essays and papers because students are disengaged and overwhelmed with writing-based assessments.
And yet I’ve also seen educators who scoff at these “departures” from learning. How deeply are kids reviewing for a test when they’re running on the field? How can they become better readers and writers by making a poster? For some, these activities are silly and fun, but detract from the serious business of school.
I’m pulled in both directions. When I know my discipline is ultimately a literacy-based endeavor, I hesitate to spend precious class time playing outside. And I worry that students learn and grow less when their final project does not mirror the real-world demands of adult work in my field.
What’s the middle ground? Not 100% silly, not 100% serious…but maybe sill-erious? Something to consider.