Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.09.15Joy Factor: Christina Fritz and the ‘Skip Counting Pep Rally’ (Video)

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Joy Factor is one of the most popular techniques in Teach Like a Champion.  Who doesn’t want to have fun while they (and their kids) work? Who doesn’t want to have their students feel the joy of learning?  But while it’s popular and positive, Joy Factor can be a surprisingly tricky thing to get just right.  I am super excited, then, to share with you this amazing video of North Star Academy’s Christina Fritz demonstrating Joy Factor with her second graders.

We’re calling the clip the “Skip Counting Pep Rally,” and in it, Christina nails three goals that are critical for bringing joy to the classroom:

1) It’s the servant:  Joy Factor is best when it “serves” the learning objectives of your lesson(s). That is, we can all think of lots of ways to have fun with a group of kids- the question is, how much can you make the fun serve the most important learning goals?  Christina’s “Skip Counting Pep Rally” is all about the math at the core of her lesson.

2) It needs a faucet: When the fun gets loud or silly, you gotta be able, as one teacher put it, to “turn it on and turn it off….” like a faucet.  Nothing is less fun than an activity that’s supposed to be fun but that quickly spirals out of control.  You saying something like, “Alright, heads down on desks.  If that’s how we have fun in this classroom we just won’t do it anymore…” is no way for your intended moment of joy to end.  So having systems to manage the energy level and to “turn it on and turn it off” is critical.  Notice how much fun Christina’s kids are having, AND how she has them “lock it up” and go briefly back to a learner’s position mid-way through to keep the necessary structure in place.

3) It’s whistling (while you work). Saying, “If we work hard we’ll play a game” (or have some free time, etc) sends the message that fun is the antidote to hard work.”  That’s a pretty mixed message. Much better is to message that we often have fun at our work and that work can be fun.  You don’t need the volume up to know that Christina’s kids got that message. 

By the way, it’s important to note that, as the text on the video implies, Christina’s kids work on their skip counting in the middle of a long and rigorous lesson with a ton of independent work and discussion…

Christina’s classroom isn’t all singing and chanting; it’s the change of pace that makes the skip counting fun


…in other words, her whole class doesn’t look this way; it’s the exclamation mark at the end of a sentence, the fun little dance step half-way through your walk to school.

There’s no time like the present for bringing the Joy Factor to your classroom, especially when you’ve got a model as sharp as Christina’s to show you how.

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