How to Get Joy Started in the Classroom

Many teachers begin the first day of school by presenting their syllabus and classroom rules.
I start with JOY!
This year I brought in 6 rolls of toilet paper, one roll for each table group. My instructions were simple:  take as much as you need. Fortunately, my students had not encountered this particular “ice breaker” before and the room erupted in laughter. Some students were puzzled and opted to take only a few squares; others went nuts!  After all students had “what they needed,” I explained that for each square, they were to reveal one “fun fact” about themselves to their table group.
I modeled the activity by sharing 4 or 5 fun facts about myself. I told them that I drive a red, Volkswagen Beetle convertible and that it is my “mid-life crisis car.” I also told them that my mom nicknamed me, “Popcorn” when I was a toddler because of my blonde curly hair. My students got a kick out of these “fun facts,” and a positive energy emerged as they shared their own story tidbits!
In my opinion, focusing on getting to know each other from the “get go” is way more important than presenting any syllabus!
Even if your school year has already begun, you can still use an icebreaker exercise in your classroom.
Joy, as you may have read in the book, Joy Starts Here, means that we are “glad to be together.” And in order to be happy to be together, students need to get to know each other as early in the year as possible.  For my students, this joy building process begins on day one–before I know their names!
This brings me to the first homework assignment: Create a nametag and decorate it with 3 symbols that represent what’s important to you.  I then allow students to choose from an array of colorful cardstock.
On day two, students bring in their nametags, and the joy building process continues.
Please enjoy the slideshow from our first day of school. These photos “tell the story” of our joy building exercise better than I can!

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