Do you make sure there is play and laughter throughout the day in your classroom? Are you comfortable with an enlivened and active class of fellow learners? If so, you are building relationships, increasing focus and attention to task, building community, relieving physical and mental stress, promoting divergent thinking, lowering the stress hormone cortisol, focusing on student strengths, and increasing motivation to learn new things and take risks.
Take this quiz to see if you have a laughing, playful, fun-filled classroom.
___My students are enthusiastic when they enter the room.
___I allow students to move around lots and work in different places in the room.
___Every day there is a sense of positive and manageable unpredictability.
___There is ease and opportunity for creativity and surprise within a safe structure of routines, rules, rituals and rewards.
___Students feel free to ask spontaneous questions during class.
___I ask more “why” questions than factual ones to peak curiosity.
___Students smile at me and say hello in the halls.
___Students work well together.
___Students are sad when they have a substitute.
___Students feel comfortable coming to me to ask for advice.
___I create opportunities for laughter, singing, use of music, funny jokes, debate, artistic expression, and role-play.
___I often compliment my students and the whole class by describing the specific things that were done well.
___The class feels like a community or family, each person taking care of the other.
___There is laughter among students and as part of the whole class everyday.
___I take spontaneous moments to say and do unexpected things that enliven the lesson.
___I use multiple modalities when teaching: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.
___I acknowledge emotions that might be occurring for students when something happens in the lesson that might remind them of their own lives.
___I show my own love of learning by sharing favorite music, funny or poignant personal stories, or bringing something to class I myself am learning about.
I would say that you need at least 15 of these 18 to be running a truly joyous classroom.
Do you have other characteristics of a playful classroom? Others of mine are:
- regular opportunities to be outside, to go on field trips, and to discover new places nearby,
- the opportunity to take care of plants and animals,
- and to cook meals together.
These may not seem like things that make a classroom joyous, but you would be surprised at the joy students have in just traveling to new places and taking care of little live creatures.
I know one teacher who brainstormed with her students fifty ways to say “Good job!” Then they were posted and used by all whenever someone in the class had a success. It definitely improved the class’s shared vocabulary (and joy)!
Here are some resources on building playful, laughing, and fun classrooms.
- Antonio Demasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, (2005).
- Eric Jensen, “The Role of Emotions in Learning” in Brain-based Learning (2008) and Tools for Engagement: Managing Emotional States for Learner (2003).
- Joseph LeDoux, The Emotional Brain, (1992).
- Diana Loomans and Karen Kohlberg, The Laughing Classroom (2002).
- Elaine Lundberg, “If They’re Laughing, They Just Might be Listening: Ideas for Using Humor Effectively in the Classroom” (2002).
- Robert McNeely, “Using Humor in the Classroom” (NEA undated).
- Annie Murphy Paul, “What do emotions have to do with learning?” (2012).
Images Courtesy of Flickr