Lately, I have been working with many teams and teachers who are interested in cultivating classrooms that are more responsive, active, and joyful. I have had teachers write me looking for new strategies, contacting me to share their ideas, and seeking resources to further their study in this area. I have written an entire book to explore the active learning aspect of the joyful classroom, but I thought it might be fun to explore some additional ideas with all of you.
- Try some tunes
Music can be used as students enter, as they leave, as a way to transition between activities, or as a tool for waking them up during a particularly long or dry lesson. Have students make suggestion for tunes, comb through your own music library, or pick up some ideas from my favorite resource on this topic, Eric Jensen’s Top Tunes.
- Use props, unexpected objects and visual supports
Liven up your lectures and create more memorable teaching experiences with materials that may make students laugh, learn and stay interested in lessons–chickens, confetti, wizard wands, pom-poms, hula hoops, stuffed toys, beach balls, jump ropes, toy microphones, and oversized sunglasses are all objects I have used in my own teaching.
I sometimes give student teachers a challenge related to this recommendation. I ask them to go to the dollar store and collect ten random items. When they come back to the classroom with their materials, I ask them to find unique ways to integrate each item into lessons in the upcoming weeks. For instance, one high school English teacher came back with a pack of glow necklaces. She used them to inspire creative writing pieces. On another day, she placed them on students necks as she gave them ‘glowing’ praise. This exercise can help educators think outside the box and often results in some of the most creative and lively lessons of the year.
- Get dramatic
Dress in costumes (e.g., Albert Einstein, astronaut, immigrant at Ellis island, a molecule) to give students a smile and, perhaps, to help them better understand a piece of your lesson.
Or turn the tables and invite students to bring the drama. Assign pairs or small groups to act out pieces of content, concepts and ideas (e.g., circulatory system, perimeter, photosynthesis, Boston Tea Party, irony). All groups may be given the charge of acting out the same idea or you can give different groups different assignments and play a game of charades.
Do you have your rubber chicken, dance tunes, and costumes ready to go? How will you stir up some joy in the classroom this week?