Friday, December 12, 2014

JOYful Learning: Part 4

The search for JOY continues. . .in the classroom! Welcome to Part 4 in JOYful Learning, a series intended to bring the JOY back into your teaching and into student learning! If you missed the first three parts, get caught up here:
Now that JOY has been on my mind, I see evidence of it everywhere!! I was in a little cafe having coffee with a girlfriend, when this book caught my eye on a shelf:
It was a sweet little book with quotes and vignettes about joy! It seems everyone is wanting joy in their lives. As we continue to look at Steven Wolk's, "Joy in School", we need to look past the academic standards.

Joy 7: Get Outside
We all spend too much time cooped up indoors and schools are especially guilty of this! I often feel sorry for my students; having to sit at their desks for extended periods of time. No wonder children daydream while staring out windows! (I always think of Anne of Green Gables, who found such joy in the fresh air, trees, flowers, and just being outdoors! She was always gazing out the windows while in school.) At a former school, my classroom windows opened from top to bottom (with no screens) and I was lucky enough to have nothing across the street from my windows besides bushes. Every day I would open the windows wide and the cool ocean breeze would waft through my classroom. It made for such a calming learning environment!! In my current school, we are next to a freeway so our windows do not open. (There's a special air filtration system installed) It's just not the same! However, living in Southern California, we are fortunate to usually have nice enough weather to go outside. (Except that it's actually raining as I write this post! Yay! We NEED the rain!) My kids LOVE when we go outdoors to read under a tree instead of at our desks; when we do partner activities, my students often choose to work outside the classroom (where I can still see them). There's something about being outside in fresh air that makes learning more joyful. No wonder recess is often the "favorite subject" for many kids!

Have you heard of The Walking Classroom? From their website: "Research consistently shows a direct positive correlation between a child's physical activity and cognitive function. With The Walking Classroom, students are active learners! The Walking Classroom is a thoroughly researched, field-tested program that capitalizes on recent findings that show physically active students learn better. Instructional time is not sacrificed by using The Walking Classroom—it’s just a different kind of classroom. The students are actively learning—usually outside."

Each student has an iPod-like device that hangs around her neck and earbuds. 15-20 minute Common Core-based podcasts are preloaded onto the devices. Students listen to the lessons as they walk!!! What a brilliant concept!! I'm hoping to get these for my students with a grant!! Check out their website!

Joy 8: Read Good Books
Some of my fondest memories in elementary school involve reading. In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Blocher, set up our whole room as the solar system. This was a couple of years after Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. (Yes, that dates me!) She hung wires across the ceiling with planets and miles marked with tags. When we read a certain number of pages, we got to move our own astronaut across the wires, closer to the moon. At the end of the year, my teacher set up a small plastic wading pool and a ladder. Each student climbed up the ladder as Mrs. Blocher announced how many pages we had read during the year. We then dropped our astronaut from the top of the ladder, splashdown into the wading pool. All the parents were present and applauded, then we each got a plaque with our picture and number of pages read. I was sooo motivated to read that year and I think it was the year that got me hooked!

As adults, many of us are in book clubs. True, much of it has to do with the social aspect (& eating & wine!), but reading and discussing books bring joy and bonds people closer together. When my oldest daughter was in second grade, several moms and I started a Mother-Daughter book club. We still remember the books we read from years ago. We continued to meet until the girls all graduated from high school, although it became less regular and truthfully, they had so much required school reading, that it was hard for the girls to find time for pleasure reading. But again, the pleasure of reading good books has bonded all of us moms & daughters for life! In the past (before District budget cuts), our amazing library media teacher hosted several student book clubs that met monthly during lunch at school. It was a time set aside for the sole purpose of enjoying books!

I'm grateful that my own children love books and have favorite authors! We've been reading to and with each other since they were babies. It's common conversation in our household, as my daughters mention book characters within everyday talk, as if they are close friends. My oldest daughter continues to share her love for reading even though she lives far away at college now; often recommending books to me!
In my classroom, I share what books I'm reading with my kids. I want them to know their teacher has a reading life outside of school! I use GoodReads to keep my lists of books I've read & books I want to read. They're categorized into education books, personal "just for fun" books, and faith books. My students keep book recommendation lists and they are expected to always be in the middle of a book at all times! My books for Read Aloud are usually titles that I know my students may have not chosen on their own, yet have beautiful language or exciting action or suspense. Read Aloud and Read to Self are two of their favorite times of day (other than recess. LOL)


Where do your students work while they learn? Inside? Outside? I always love to hear how other teachers get their kids into the fresh air! How do you encourage reading good books? 

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