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Bringing Joy into the Classroom

October 16, 2013 / by Carrie Kamm

When you have spent all day in a school and you are in your car signing “Criss-cross applesauce; sitting on your biscuit” you know you have spent time in a classroom with infectious Joy Factor.  Incorporated in Joy Factor are ways to celebrate learning, make routines and procedures less mundane, and reinforce a spirit of community.

As you think about how to incorporate Joy Factor into your classroom, Doug Lemov has some important tips in his book, “Teach Like a Champion Field Guide”:

  • Joy is for all ages

  • Joy can be quiet or loud; for the individual student or for the entire class

  • Keep Joy Factor activities short and embedded in instruction

  • Each teacher needs to find ways to incorporate Joy Factor in ways that are comfortable for them

Mia Leonard’s (NTA kindergarten mentor teacher) classroom is place where Joy Factor is ever present.  Since I consider her to be one of the Joy Factor experts I know, I asked her to share her thoughts about Joy Factor and offer some advice to those who are new to incorporating this technique in their classroom.

I use songs and chants every day during morning meeting to create excitement for the day, engage kids, and build community.  I use songs and chants during transitions from one activity to the next.  We chant our rug rules before beginning an activity on the rug.  We use songs and chants prior to our flashcard routine and before we begin shared reading.  I also incorporate chants and songs during instruction.  For example we have a chant to help us learn and remember our teen numbers.

My students are motivated by movement and music.  Using chants and songs with my routines engages students and addresses multiple modes of learning.  Using chants/songs help students remember and internalize directions and instructions and it makes learning and following the rules and routines of the classroom fun for them.

My advice for people who would want to incorporate more songs and chants would be to begin by incorporating songs and chants the kids already know.  For kindergarten they all know how to sing the ABCs.  I may have students sing while transitioning from their tables to the rug.  They have to be seated by the end of the song.  This works better in some cases than a timer since young children don't understand the concept of time and it motivates them to make it to the rug in a timely matter.  Also if you want to incorporate more humor, suspense, and excitement you also need to be prepared for how excited your kids will be when they respond.  Be prepared with ways to control that excitement and bring them back down.  Counting down and non-verbal cues are ways to do that.  

If you teach intermediate or upper grades, using songs and chants to make transitions more joyous may not feel age-appropriate.  A suggestion would be to play music to facilitate in-class transitions.  Assigning a student to choose the song will add some ownership to a fun routine.

Here is a clip of Mia’s Joy Factor in action!

Mia Leonard's Joy Factor

What are some ways you incorporate joy into your classroom?  I'd love to see your comments or videos of joyous classrooms!

Topics: Class Culture

Carrie Kamm

Written by Carrie Kamm

Carrie Kamm has 16 years of experience in education and is currently a mentor-resident coach with the Academy for Urban School Leadership's (AUSL) Chicago Teacher Residency program. She is a coauthor of TEACHING 2030: What We Must Do for our Students and our Public Schools… Now and In the Future, and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality's collaboratory. Follow Carrie on Twitter, @Carrie_Kamm.

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