April Newsletter: Why Does Fun Help Us Learn?

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Almost everyone remembers their favorite teacher. Often times it’s because that teacher found a way to make learning fun. I had a biology teacher in high school who assigned creative projects, cracked a few jokes, and found unlimited opportunities to make us smile. To this day, I still remember all of the bird calls we had to memorize for a test. Why? Because it was FUN!

There are many benefits to having fun while you learn!

Having fun increases motivation to participate [1]. It enhances mood which increases cognitive flexibility thus making learning enjoyable! Contrary to popular belief, having fun while learning actually improves your attention in the best ways you’d want it to! Additionally, fun increases the brain activity of neurons that use oxytocin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which help to boost learning and memory. [1]

Stress-free safe environments reduce the impact of the amygdala (the part of your brain that controls the fear response) which oftentimes prevents information from reaching higher brain regions necessary for processing. Stress and anxiety compromise the ability to learn by redirecting resources for survival and body maintenance (e.g., test-taking anxiety). [1]

New and engaging activities help direct the reticular activating system to send out more resources for processing detailed information. Curiosity and relatable experiences engage 3 brain networks which means they process information on multiple levels. Without sparking curiosity, learning is compromised. [1]

Lastly, our sensory system has evolved to mix and work with multiple senses at the same time. Thus, limiting sensory inputs could actually hinder the possible benefits of holistic learning. [1]

At Worldwide Speech, we make sure to take this into account!

Here are some of the many things we do to make therapy FUN!

  1. Learn about your student’s “favorites.” Favorite show, movie, cartoon, books, toys, etc.
  2. Ask your student what they are good at. Use that in your sessions to boost confidence
  3. Play-based activities rather than worksheets. If you’re a kid and see a black and white worksheet in front of you, you might say, “UGH!” Instead, incorporate target sounds into games like tic-tac-toe, snakes and ladders, connect 4, etc.
  4. Provide choices. Kids love being given the option to choose what they do in therapy. For example, “Do you want to play a board game or tic-tac-toe?”
  5. Brain breaks. Break activities up with mini brain breaks
  6. Music. Incorporate music into our sessions
  7. Build rapport. Don’t just dive in headfirst. Kids often take a bit of time to warm up to new adults. Don’t move past this step too soon.
  8. Positive reinforcement. As pathologists, we want to correct our students on their pronunciation, language use, etc. Make sure you counterbalance all the criticisms with positive reinforcement. For example, “You’re doing a great job paying attention to speech, could you try to bring your tongue back a little farther for a strong r?”
  9. Ask your students for feedback. If they don’t like the activity, try to find another activity or modify the activity for the next time.
  10. To entertain a kid, you have to think like a kid! Put on your best goofy face, tell a cheesy joke, allow time to put a silly filter on, etc.

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References

1. https://cognitiontoday.com/why-fun-improves-learning-mood-senses-neurons-arousal-cognition/#:~:text=Having%20fun%20and%20being%20excited,which%20improve%20learning%20and%20memory