TECHNIQUE #62: JOY FACTOR
Say it isn’t so, #62! Happy trails to you, and to me, as you embark on your summer vacation. It seems fitting that the final technique from Teach Like a Champion 2.0 is labeled: Joy Factor, and the synchronicity of completing this final blog post on the last day of school. Within all the standardization, admonitions to be prepared in advance, and insistent, mindful behavior management there is so much room for joy in the day to day lives of students. One of the shining hallmarks of high achieving classrooms is the presence of and an aptitude for “energy, passion, enthusiasm, fun, and humor. Hold that thought; Joy Factor recommends that fun should certainly have it place, but that its goal is to support the day’s objective. Additionally, Champion® teachers should be able to regulate Joy Factor; being able to turn it “on and off” is a skill in and of itself. “There’s nothing worse than a Joy Factor that ends with a lecture because students couldn’t handle the fun without coming off the rails (or more precisely, because the teacher didn’t teach the kids how to have fun without coming off the rails). A champion teacher recognizes that his job is not only to share joy but also to teach students how to manage the joy.”,(p.443)¹. Many adults struggle with their inability to harness the “joy” appropriately.
I think it’s interesting to note that some classrooms are completely devoid of Joy Factor; pedagogical preferences, content area (how do you make Math fun?!), or a lack of motivation or energy to initiate “games” or humor, can leave students searching for some spark in what they are learning about. Lemov¹ does not purport to have a clearly defined recipe for Joy Factor, but provides the parameters and includes a few examples.
Fun & Games: Students love challenges; many classroom activities or tasks can be converted into a game. As frequently as possible, try to have the game aligned with the day’s learning objective.
- Apply the label: To any task, denote it as a challenge or game.
- Redirect: Move the activity to a different location in the classroom or the school.
- Add a Twist: Using a typical daily task add a stopwatch, half the classroom into teams, pick your favorite color to write or correct, start a tally of points, etc.
- Go easy on Rewards: Hand out prizes, scholar dollars, passes, special passes sparingly.
- Make the connection: Refer to the learning objective before and/or after the fun is done.
Us (and Them): Develop routines, nicknames, “secret” songs, shared stories (true or fictional) that make your class, homeroom, groupings genuinely unique. Create an environment where “We are an us, …a vibrant and recognizable entity. Through unique language, names, rituals, traditions, songs and the like cultures establish “us”ness.”¹.
Drama, Song and Dance: Have you got the energy for this!? Its important to note that the use of cultural materials and artifacts is a great way to build character in up and coming global citizens.
- Globalize your plan: Every content has some wiggle room for Culture; it makes a lesson plan unique and memorable.
- Songs make memories: Not in a sentimental fashion, but literally. You Tube provides a plethora of educational songs, jingles, raps based on any content area. As a World Language teacher, I know that song is a powerful tool toward enhancing memorization and moves information from the short term memory into long term.
- Drama?!: Add a foreign accent to whatever it is that you are reading aloud; instructions with a British accent, reading a poem with a southern accent, times tables a la France…
- Dance?!: Not terribly comfortable with this one? Provide students with opportunities to stand up and move. Remember, a lot of children are chair bound throughout the day. Why do a typical activity standing to the right of your desks, or disperse to the four corners of the room for a relay activity?
Suspense and Surprise: “Routines are powerful drivers of efficiency and predictability. They also make occasional variations all the more fun, silly, surprising, and inspiring. If harnessed judiciously, the unexpected can be powerful.”, (p. 445)¹. The key is to have a clear, well defined task ready for implementation immediately following any “flash mob” sort of activity. Know precisely what you are going to do next and transition into the next task calmly, in a quieter yet very firm voice.
- Wrap: artifacts, examples, model projects etc in a box. This renders authentic learning materials even more special.
- Pack items to distribute in small suitcase/briefcase: worksheets, magazines, books, etc. Make an exaggerated gesture of opening the case.
- Use sealed envelops: Place vocabulary cards, instructions, pictures, etc in a seal envelop for individual students or for group activities. Every one has to wait to unseal the envelop.
- Randomly Play Music: Classical, Latino, New Age Ambient, etc. At a low volume, when students are working well on a task they are comfortable with, play music for the students occasionally. You are the DJ and rarely take requests.
In conclusion, Joy Factor is a huge factor towards establishing a successful, productive classroom. Happy learners are engaged learners. It is good to inspire joy in young people; an integral yet subtle part of the responsibility of fostering healthy social expectations. I was looking for more concrete examples for this technique, but then realized: Every classroom dynamic is unique, from classroom to classroom, from year to year. Every teacher is very capable of developing his or her creativity and sense of joy; the KEY is to remember to include this component into your day or week, and to not get so caught up in the Routine Factor that you forget.