“It makes sense to include humor and laughter and to celebrate learning in the classroom” (Gregory & Chapman, 2007, p 17). Celebrations in the classroom, administered on both an individual and group basis, can add to the culture and connectivity of students. These celebrations should be given in a regular manner and done face to face (Center on Innovation and Improvement, 2010).
Celebrations can be conducted beyond the litany of the most popularly acknowledged events such as those surrounding holidays like Halloween, Valentine’s Day, 100th Day and Earth Day to name a few. Schools can create their own celebrations and associate them with inventive holidays. One such example is entitled ‘Hooray for Diffendoofer Day’ which is based from a Dr. Seuss book (Kehoe, 2010).
Celebrations do not even need to be associated with any holidays. In one instance, celebrations were introduced into the classroom through ‘Good News’. Each morning, students began their day with ‘Good News’. Students met in a whole group where they were encouraged to share their news with their class. Students eagerly raised their hands to share their ‘Good News’.
‘Good News’ varied from day to day. Some days, ‘Good News’ was brief. Few things were offered by students. Other days, ‘Good News’ exceeded the time limit as students energetically shared with their classmates. One student shared, “This morning I made pancakes by myself.” Another student shared “My mom is going to have another baby. I’m hoping it will be a sister. I only have brothers.” Another spoke up, “I am going to be an aunt. My sister is having a baby and it is a boy.” Each item was accepted as if it were just as important as the other announcements as their classmates clapped and congratulated each accomplishment.
As students became more enthusiastic about sharing their lives with their classmates, a ‘Good News-letter’ was started. Students eagerly wrote their articles and contributed them to an overall newsletter which was posted in the classroom. The newsletter was also shared with other classes and families. Students looked forward to creating the newsletter each month.
Another successful aspect of the project was the introduction of the teacher to the students. The class began to envision their teacher as a person that existed beyond the classroom. Other teachers were invited to participate in ‘Good News’ as they visited the room. One teacher animatedly shared how he’d accidentally tried to shave on his way to work with his cellphone because he’d forgotten his electric razor at home. The kids hollered and laughed as he pranced around the room, allowing the students to pat his whiskers. When he was asked why that was ‘Good News’ he exclaimed, ‘Well because I got lots of lovings from my favorite first graders.’
The ‘Good News’ spread through the school as the administrator began sharing ‘Good News’ during morning announcements. Soon, ‘Good News’ from the office included a daily joke which enthralled the students bringing laughter to the school day. Humor and laughter can accentuate and encourage learning within a school. Gregory & Chapman (2007) state laughter “punctuates learning by releasing neuro-chemical transmitters called endorphins… Laughter even helps the immune system. … Teachers can encourage students to applaud one another and cheer for each other’s successes” (p 17).
Laughter has been proven to be so essential to the physical well-being of the body that Laughter Yoga is now prevalent throughout the world. “Research has proved that just 10-20 minutes of fake or real laughter has a profound benefit on the human body” (Laughter Yoga International, 2010, p 1). Laughter has been proven as being soothing in the classroom and helping to ease the tensions created from the stress of the learning environment (Mawhinney, 2008).
‘Good News’ became a morning ritual within the classroom. Such rituals or traditions help to create a classroom community. They foster respect for one another and a desire to be with one another (Scully & Howell, 2008). These rituals and traditions become essential to the classroom culture.
To enhance the ‘Good News’ idea, students could be encouraged to expound on one idea or another. For instance, when the student shared his enthusiasm for making pancakes, the recipe could be investigated and a math connection made. As students shared the additions to their family, heritage could have been discussed as well as comparing and contrasting similarities and differences between families. The teacher could be actively searching for connections to be made between the personal lives of the students and the curriculum being taught.
Celebrations and laughter are essential components to classroom culture. Laughter can be the best medicine of all as it modifies the chemical levels in the body and helps to alleviate anxiety and stress. Teachers can encourage their students to laugh and celebrate just as they remember to laugh and celebrate as well. Laughter really can be the best teaching tool of all.
Center on Innovation and Improvement. (2010). Establishing a supportive school climate. Available: www.centerii.org/handbook/Resources/9_J_Establishing_a_Supportinve_School_Climate.pdf
Gregory, G. (2008). Differentiated instructional strategies in practice: training, implementation, and supervision (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Gregory, G. & Chapman, C. (2007). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn’t fit all. (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Kehoe, S. (2010). A Teaching and Activity Guide for Hooray For Diffendoofer Day! Available: www.seussville.com/titles/diffendoofer/guide.html
Laughter Yoga International. (2010). Concept and philosophy. Available: www.laughteryoga.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=182:concept-and- philosophy&catid=85:about-laughter-yoga&Itemid=265
Mawhinney, L. (2008). Laugh so you don’t cry: teachers combating isolation in schools through humour and social support. Ethnography and Education, 3(2), 195-209.
Scully, P. & Howell, J. (2008). Using Rituals and Traditions to Create Classroom Community for Children, Teachers, and Parents. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3), 261-266.
By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson
Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.