4 Ways to Bring Joy into Your ELA Classroom


Assessment, rigor, data analysis, text complexity:  These are the buzzwords in education today.  All of this emphasis on accountability can unfortunately make learning dreary and tedious.  But joy makes learning memorable, and students often look back fondly on creative activities.  Thus, it's up to teachers to send the message that sometimes it's okay to have fun in class! 

The holiday season is a perfect time to incorporate something out of the ordinary in your classes. 

1. Do a literary cookie exchange with your students.

Make eating cookies a literary event! After reading a novel or story, have students make cookies that symbolically represent literary elements.  For instance, a student could make a cookie in the shape of a mockingbird to represent Tom Robinson or Arthur (Boo) Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Let students bring in their homemade cookies to exchange with one another.  During the exchange, they can explain how the cookies connect with their selected literary elements.
As a modification, if some students can't make cookies, offer other ways for them to participate.  Maybe they can draw and write descriptions of their cookies.  Of course, be sure to check for food allergies so no one makes cookies that could make other students sick.  And don't forget to bring in hot chocolate or cider for students to enjoy on the cookie exchange day! 

2. Lead students on a "writing walk."

Get your students to use sensory details with this free activity.   Students not only improve their writing but also get out of their seats for place-based writing. Take them to write at various locations such as the stage, cafeteria, locker room, and media center around the school (or, weather permitting, go outside to a park or other place in walking distance).  Handouts include guiding questions to help students write words and phrases for each sense: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.  Then students write poetry, stories, or other reflections with their descriptions. While this activity can be completed any time of the year, the sights, sounds, and scents of the holidays make it a delightful experience during the winter season.

3. Design Secret Santa Stockings

Give your students an opportunity to display their artistic talents. In this activity, students illustrate stockings for characters in their reading. It requires them to analyze characterization and to provide a written rationale for their gift selections. 
Easily adaptable to the needs of your curriculum or students, this activity could be done for authors, historical figures, scientists, artists, or others being studied in secondary classes.

4. Show Gratitude

Use this YouTube video to help students see the connection between sharing their gratitude and feeling happy. Even better, have students call and thank someone who has had a positive influence on their lives. Before calling, they can write out what they want to say. Not only will this activity increase the happiness of your students, but it will likely make the days of the people whom they call a lot cheerier, too!

More Ways to Celebrate

Organize a poetry slam, read-in, or other activity that revels in appreciating the language arts. For years, I organized a “Read-a-Latte Café” celebration. For the occasion, guest speakers joined my students in reading aloud from favorite books/poems/etc. and discussing the importance of reading in their work and personal lives. We added hot chocolate, tea, and pastries to make it extra special for the holidays.

What do you do to make learning special in your classroom?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you have wonderful holiday season!



5 comments

  1. Thank you so much for these great ideas! I'm up for a literary cookie exchange any time of the year, really... :)

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  3. The secret stocking idea is really cute and perfect for right before the holidays.

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