A few weeks ago I spent the weekend at a local show, with a stand promoting Easy Notes. It’s the first time that I’ve really promoted Easy Notes to the general public (usually I present it to music teachers), and the thing that struck me was the constant stream of kids who would wander up to the table, spot the magnets, and start playing with them. You could tell they really wanted to know what it was about and what the magnets were for. If I wasn’t talking to other customers, I’d teach the kids a few of the notes, telling them the Easy Notes stories, and getting them to put the magnets on the piano keyboard and on the magnetic stave. It was neat to think that after a few minutes doing a fun activity, these kids who had wandered up went away having learned a few music notes!

It reminded me of the term “serious fun”. I’ve googled it to get a precise definition, but there doesn’t seem to be one, so I’ve made up my own:

Serious fun: Fun with an underlying serious objective.

It’s great if you can harness “serious fun” when you want to teach something to someone, because right away you have their attention captured. Then, because it’s fun, they have an inward motivation propelling them forward – they want to do it, they want to find out how. And also, the fun creates an atmosphere in which they feel safe and free from the fear of failure. All of this means that the perfect environment has been created for optimal learning, and their minds are wide open to absorb what you want to teach them, which is the serious objective of the fun.

This kind of learning is vital with young children, and happens abundantly when they play. To adults it may look like they’re just having fun, but to the children their play is their work, because as they play, vital developmental learning takes place. To them, it’s serious fun!

When we were at school most of the learning wasn’t much fun, but we can probably all remember times when we really did get inspired, and learning became serious fun. I remember a project we did when I was 7, on “Tonga”. It was a cold, rainy day outside, but we put on the heaters and turned our classroom into a little Tonga, dressing up as Tongans, making Tongan food, playing Tongan games, and learning about life in Tonga. I absolutely loved it and can still remember a lot about it, like the big sign saying TONGA we made that covered the length of our classroom wall, and I can still visualise some of the pictures in the books we read about Tonga. When learning is fun, our brain becomes like a sponge, soaking up the serious objective of the fun.

That’s what I’ve been loving about using Easy Notes this year. I’ve started 6 piano beginners in the last three months, and all of them have taken delight in hearing the Easy Notes stories, ‘playing’ with the magnets, and completing the theory pages. They like it when I tear out more flashcards to add to their pile as they learn new notes, and they have this kind of pride in showing how they know what the notes are, and how they can name and play the notes when we go through the flashcards. I would definitely say that to them, it’s serious fun!

It’s great when something that has to be learned but is essentially not very fun, such as learning the notes, is dressed up as a fun activity. If you can dish up what you want to teach in a fun way, then you’re on to a winner, and you’re tapping into the power of “serious fun”!

If you have any thoughts to add on serious fun, please feel free to post them as a comment below.

In my next post I want to talk about the motivational power of engaging teaching.