Can learning be fun and joyful? Amidst the increased rigor, additional high stakes testing, and required pacing guides it is harder to find joy in everyday teaching. Research by Taina Rantala (an elementary school principal) and Kaarina Maatta (a professor of psychology) indicates that joy is an important factor in learning. Here are a few things you might try:
- Be willing to be in the moment. There are lots of goofy things that happen during the day. Sometimes they are annoying but almost as often you can stop and appreciate your student’s creativity.
- Keep learning relevant to your students. How does the learning intersect with their lives? What stories can they tell that connect to the learning?
- Scaffold the learning so that each student can experience some success.
- Use encouragement instead of praise. Try saying, “I notice you finished your work” instead of, “Good job.”
- Invite time for self-reflection and group reflection. “Look what we’ve learned together.”
- Model and leave room for mistakes. Being able to learn from mistakes invites students to be able to take more and appropriate academic risks.
- Play and be playful. Reconnect to why you like to teach what you teach. When you share your joy of discovery and wonder your students will join you in the fun of learning.
- Grant students as much freedom as possible within classroom guidelines. It probably makes no difference to you if the assignment is done on blue or green paper, but allowing students to have options, creates joy in the air.