11 Ways to Bring Joy into the Classroom
I believe joy in the classroom helped my students become more successful. In fact, I think that is why I loved teaching them so much and stayed in special education for my whole career. In the article, Joy in School by Steven Wolk, he states, “Joyful learning can flourish in school—if you give joy a chance.” I thought about how I had applied that to my own classroom. Here are ways that I have tried to bring Joy into my own classrooms.
1. Find Pleasure in Learning
I tried to model this for my class so every year I would try to learn something new and share it with the class. One year I taught myself how to juggle after reading a book on juggling. Then I practiced in front of the class and they watched me struggle as I learned but I didn’t give up until I finally was able to juggle. I think they were as excited about my success as I was. One year I learned how to crochet and my class watched as my afghan grew bigger and bigger. When it was done, many of my students asked me to teach them how to crochet. I think it is experiences like this that shows students that there can be fun in learning.
2. Give Students Choice
My students with disabilities felt like they had very little power over their lives and tended to make bad choices as a way of rebelling. I tried to give them choices whenever the opportunity was there. For assessing what they learned, I gave choices of projects that could appeal to students with different learning styles. They were able to pick the project that they would enjoy doing and usually it was amazing at what they turned in. When they were able to have a choice, they tended to put a lot more effort and energy into producing something they could be proud of. I also asked my students what topics they were interested in learning more about and one day a week, I would try to incorporate their topics into the lesson.
3. Let Students Create Things
My students loved to make things because they already had learning difficulties. When asked to create their own things, they felt the sky was the limit. Usually they were so overwhelmed with how much reading they had to do that it left very little time for them to create something new. I tried to allow time for this and learned that I had many artists, musicians, and photographers in my class.
4. Show Off Student Work
My high school special ed students were very embarrassed about showing off their work so I asked that they write their names on the backs of the work and not the front. Even though they said they didn’t want their work displayed, I saw how thrilled they were when I put their work up. Many of them had never been praised for having work good enough to display. Sometimes this was a new experience for many of them.
5. Take Time to Tinker
Many times I would take a box full of knick knacks and ordinary objects (paper clips, rubber bands, tape, thumb tacks) and ask the students (in small groups) to take out 5 things. They needed to invent something new, draw the invention, and then write a description of the invention telling what it could do. Then I would ask them to share their invention with the class. They loved to do this. Again this involves students making choices, and creating things.
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