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Taking a Joyful Approach for 2021

As we approach a December break, I often take this time to reflect on the year thus far. When I look back on the first half of this school year, I think about how much has changed for students and teachers. At this point, I wonder how many teachers are still feeling overwhelmed with their continually evolving learning environments or worry about the gaps in student learning. I recently attended one of Lucy Calkin's office hours, where she said that we need to prioritize what we feel is the most valuable. So for 2021, here is what I am making my priority:

To Cultivate Joy!

In the book, The Joyful Teacher, Berit Gordon writes, "Expert teaching has a tremendous amount to do with attitude and expectations. When we feel empowered with tools of reflection and implementation, we are ready to make an impact. But so often that path to finding tools and feeling like an expert is unclear." In looking forward to 2021, I am thinking about what my tools will be not just to show my students a joyful teacher but to let them experience joy in their learning.

Here is what will be in my joy toolbox:

1. Singing

Lately, I find myself singing throughout the day. When I sing or hum a tune it always puts me in a better mood.

Time Magazine recently published an article titled, “Singing Changes Your Brain.” The article said “The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. “

If I feel joy in singing, I know that during this period of virtual instruction songs will allow my students to experience the same. I know we will be able to sing in our morning meeting and sing transitions, but the place in my day where I feel like I will use songs the most is to support and practice phonics, fluency, and comprehension during shared reading.

Benefits of Shared Reading

  • Gives students different ways to participate

  • Access with support to more difficult text

  • Students have the opportunity to have choice and control during reading

  • Students can try multiple things in different ways

  • Exposure to different types of text (big books, songs, poems, articles, interactive writing, reader’s theatre)

  • Text choice compliments students’ interests

  • Introduces students to a variety of authors and illustrators

Teaching Opportunities Within Shared Reading

  • Strategies from current Reading Unit of Study

  • Word Patterns from Fundations

  • Sight Words

  • Rhyme or Alliteration

  • Dialogue

  • Varied Punctuation

  • Vocabulary

  • Picture Support

  • Print Layout


  • Sentence Strips

  • Sliding Masks

  • Correction Tape

  • Post-Its

  • Highlighter Tape

  • Wipe Boards

  • Magnetic Letters

  • Pointer

  • Word Cards

  • Pocket Charts

  • Small Copies of Text

2. Actions and Gestures

Katrina Schwartz’s article “Why Kids Need to Move, Touch, and Experience to Learn” talks about when we match words with specific actions the understanding becomes more ingrained. She writes, “Maria Montessori highlighted the connection between minds and bodies in her 1936 book The Secret of Childhood. Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas."

One of the goals that we have for our readers is to really get to know the characters in their books. We often tell students to “walk in the character’s shoes.” We teach them to get to know characters by thinking about what the character is doing, thinking, feeling, and saying. We can increase students’ connection to a character by asking them to act out what the character is doing and saying. We can have them show us with their face how the character is feeling. Acting like the character that we are reading about not only helps us to really know the character, but also is it fun! Fun evokes joy!

The best way that we can help students practice is through interactive read aloud. In addition to planning for turn and talks, think alouds, and stop and jots, we can also plan for stop and act.

Qualities of an Interactive Read Aloud

• Students do a lot of thinking

• 15-20 minutes daily

• Linked to the Units of Study

• Community of readers is working together

• Students are engaged the whole time

• Balance of independence and dependence

• The text is interesting with important parts

• It is fun!

Benefits of Interactive Read Aloud

• Improves students’ syntactic development

• Builds students’ vocabulary

• Enhances students’ comprehension

• Develops students’ fluency

• Provides a model for student writing

• Helps students’ to better understand types of texts

• Broadens students thinking as well as imaginations

Taken from In Defense of Read-Aloud by Steven L. Layne

Possible Read Alouds that Allow for Acting and Gestures

Z is for Moose

We are all Wonder

Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue


Miss Brooks Loves Book

Miss Brooks Story Nooks

Wanted Ralfy Rabbit Book Bugler

Jumbari Jumps

Jack’s Worry

Mother Bruce

Charlotte the Scientist is Squished


Two Boys Booed

Milk Goes to School

Happy Birthday Cupcake

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Good Rosie

The Day You Begin

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

You Can Read

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great

In a school year that has many teachers and students feeling down, I am making a choice for 2021 to build a toolbox of strategies that will cultivate joy for not just myself but also for the students that I work with. I think now more than ever will all need a little joy!

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