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The Best Way to Beat the Winter Classroom Slump is...Joy Factor!!

March 5, 2014 / by Rosemary Baker

Or as John Travolta would say, “Jadele Fazeem.”

J-Factor-wordcloud

Jerry Taft says more snow is on its way but who cares, right!  Spending what feels like three fourths of the year in one, very cold, very long season isn’t all that draining on one’s physical and mental health, right!  Right?!?

Well, maybe not for people who have the right “gear” to weather it!

This installment of the DIY blog will give you tips and strategies to employ Joy Factor in your classroom tomorrow to get things moving and feeling like Spring has sprung.

Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion, provides five ways to integrate J-Factor into your instruction:

  1. Fun and Games
  2. Us (and them)
  3. Drama, Song and Dance
  4. Humor
  5. Suspense & Surprise

Let’s dig into some examples!

Fun and Games sounds pretty basic and it is!  It accesses students’ (and teachers’) natural love for competition and play. Try starting with two simple questions:

What content am I teaching tomorrow?” Character Traits using Ruby Bridges. Great.

What content do I need to review to teach that lesson?”  Vocabulary.  Awesome.

Here an example for how to transform vocab review into a game.

Guess the word:

  1. Write the vocabulary on the board.
  2. Have a student volunteer come up to be the guesser.  The rest of the students are clue givers.  You are the word chooser.
  3. The student volunteer stands back to the board.  You point to one of the words on board -without the volunteer seeing.
  4. The volunteer calls on students to give her a clue as to the meaning of the word (they can’t do “rhymes with” or “starts with” clues).
  5. After 3 student clues, the volunteer is allowed to guess.
  6. If the volunteer gets it, the class gets a point, if they don’t the teacher gets the point.
  7. Repeat with another student volunteer until all words are guessed.

This is actually a version of a Morning Meeting game and you should check out the Morning Meeting book for other great ideas.  If you noticed, another easy-to-use game was embedded in there as well - Beat the Teacher.

Beat the Teacher: You can turn almost anything into Beat the Teacher, it requires minimal materials, provides limitless challenges and students LOVE it.  Besides using it for content review, you can also use it to put a positive spin on routine tune-ups you may need do at this point in the year.  For example, are your level 0 transitions just not level 0 anymore?  Try using Beat the Teacher to tackle that issue!

  1. Pick a focus and agree as a class what exactly it will look like (e.g., "After my countdown, everyone is at level 0, in their seat, listening position").
  2. Make a scoreboard on the board with your name on one side and the chosen students’ team name on the other.
  3. Then every time you do said transition and the students do it in the EXACT agreed upon fashion, they get a point.  If they don’t, you get a point.
  4. At the end of the week, whoever has the most points gets the agreed upon prize (dance party, 5 minutes of free time, popcorn - all of which you as a teacher you can easily provide OR thoroughly enjoy yourself).

Us (and Them) is about belonging to a group.  You have probably done things already to help your classroom feel like its own group within your school but here are some more ideas to help add on:

  • Pick a Class Song: Choose one that has a positive message or is just plain fun (like Happy by Pharrell Williams).  This can be something you play every morning to transition from entry to Do Now.  Choose a song that generates a connection with your whole class.

  • Develop a Class Motto: I saw this in Ms. Gunn’s kindergarten class (who call themselves The Leaders) at Herzl School of Excellence, “The Leaders will come to school everyday to grow their brains so they can go to college one day!”  It was signed by all the students and posted front and center in the room. Instant group identity.

Drama, Song and Dance: Movement raises anyone's energy level!  Even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, I promise you can do any of the following:

  • Add Movements: For example, when you are teaching vocabulary, add a hand motion for students to do along with it.  For instance, if you are teaching the word “divide”, add a karate chop motion with it.  It’s a far cry from dancing but it’s a start.

  • Change the lyrics of a familiar song: Lemov recommends Jingle Bells but our own Fabulous Coach Extraordinaire, Nina Weisling, would suggest “War” by Edwin Starr and transform it into something like this: "Ratios - Hoo- Yea- What is it good for - Comparing Values! Say it again!”

Humor: Try laughing. At yourself.  Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously in front of kids - for good reason - but there are times when you have to show you are human and laugh a little. Finding places to add a joke here and there is healthy for you and your kids.

Suspense & Surprise: Turn the mundane into the extraordinary.  Take things you have routinely done in your classroom all year long and add some suspense and surprise. One great way is to create a Mystery Box. Take a box or a kitchen towel and tell your students that in/underneath it is the next amazing Read Aloud.  Don’t unveil it until they take guesses about the next adventure the book will take them on.  You can substitute read aloud for poem, number of the day, shape of the day, challenge problem, vocab word, etc.

Tomorrow, no matter the weather outside, pull out your weather-proof, all terrain, sub-zero enabled classroom engagement tools of Joy Factor to warm things up in your classroom.

Have fun!

Topics: Class Culture, Engagement, Classroom Setup

Rosemary Baker

Written by Rosemary Baker

Rosemary currently works for AUSL, co-managing their Elementary Coach team. Using what's she's learned in her 14 years as an educator, she supports coaches, teachers and administrators as they do the important work of turning around failing schools.

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