CityU Library Reviews “Engaging minds in the classroom: The surprising power of joy”

CityU Library Reviews “Engaging minds in the classroom: The surprising power of joy”
 Jennifer Bodley reviews  "Engaging minds in the classroom"
Jennifer Bodley reviews “Engaging minds in the classroom”

Review by Jennifer Bodley, Librarian
Do you know how to make learning joyful?  My daughter’s 2nd grade teacher does.  He uses shaving cream for math lessons.  Consequently, my daughter loves math.  She doesn’t just love playing in the shaving cream, but she loves doing math in the shaving cream!

In Engaging minds in the classroom: The surprising power of joy [login required], Opitz and Ford discuss joy in the classroom.  They define joyful learning as “acquiring knowledge or skills in ways that cause pleasure and happiness” (Opitz & Ford, p. 10).

Jennifer’s daughter loves shaving cream math! Source:

Today’s educational emphases are on standardized test scores, learning outcomes, and student performance. For these ends, is the focus on acquiring knowledge to the exclusion of pleasure and happiness?  Teachers sometimes find it difficult to do much more than follow prescribed teaching scripts and timetables.  As a result, lessons created by well-meaning teachers can be dull or disengaging. Opitz and Ford begin the book by describing a framework for implementing joyful learning.  They encourage teachers to adopt joyful learning comprehensively across the curriculum and across school settings, because motivation and engagement are necessary components to a joyful classroom experience. A discussion of current theories of motivation and engagement anchors the first chapter.
In the second chapter, Opitz and Ford consider assessment of five elements of joyful learning: learners, teachers, teaching materials, assessments and school climate. They present essential and guiding questions for teachers to ask so they know starting points for those five elements.  Teachers can hit the ground running with two included surveys.  One survey targets individual learners in the classroom.  The other survey targets teaching materials and assessments in the schoolwide setting.

Opitz and Ford next talk about implementing joyful learning in a variety of settings from small group instruction to larger school communities.  Each of these settings has special considerations that will affect planning and teaching strategies.  Sample instructional activities are included at the end of the third chapter.

In chapter four, Opitz and Ford address the practical considerations and difficulties of implementing joyful learning in today’s school.  They discuss how to implement joyful learning in support of Response to Intervention, in regards to achievement gaps and in support of Common Core State Standards.

Engaging minds in the classroom: The surprising power of joy. Opitz, Michael F., & Ford, Michael P. 2014. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. 77 pages. [Login required]

Curriculum Connections

There are a several CityU audiences which might benefit from exploring the themes discussed in Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The surprising power of joy. For example:

Teacher Certification and School Administration Programs: Chapter 3, Implementing Joyful Learning, presents easily adaptable instructional activities for a variety of learning environments such as the physical setting or small group instruction.  Additionally, Opitz and Ford discuss strategies for overcoming real-world obstacles of implementing joyful learning in the classroom.  Obstacles include implementing joyful learning within RTI models, assessment framework, common core requirements, and achievement gap situations.

CityU Teaching Faculty & Instructors: Do the students you see in your classroom or online show joy in learning?  Do you show joy in your teaching?  This book isn’t just for K-12 teachers.  In Chapter 1, Understanding Joyful Learning, teaching faculty and instructors will get a refresher on the importance of student motivation and engagement.  Motivated and engaged students will do better in class.

Related Resources

Please note: Resources listed with [Login Required] are available to CityU students, faculty and staff, and may be available to other readers through their local libraries.

Published October 13, 2014



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