Monday, February 4, 2013

The Fun Theory

Volkswagen has an initiative called The Fun Theory.  It's dedicated to the idea that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better.  Innovative participants have shared their best thinking and inventions to help prove the theory, submitting ideas like the world's deepest trash bin, a soda machine that functions like a slot machine for recycling old cans, a piano staircase (my personal favorite) and more.

The fun theory is one of the cornerstones of Daily 5 as well.  No matter which Daily 5 we are launching, we build urgency and purpose by letting students know that their choices will not only make them better readers and writers, but will be fun for them.

It isn't just snake oil.  When students have perfectly fitting books and settle down in a comfortable spot to read for an extended period of time, it is fun.  Getting to write about things that really matter to them in forms that fit the topic and audience is equally enjoyable.

If the momentum in our rooms is beginning to sag, it's a perfect time to revisit and reestablish the fun factor.  Have focused sharing around who had fun today with a book, their writing, or their Word Work efforts.  It will be infectious, and could be just the booster shot everyone needs to delve back in with a new sense of urgency.

Friday, February 1, 2013


"There is a tremendous need for trust in a really great collaboration." 

Keyboardist Jeff Johnson was speaking about his partnership with Phil Keaggy, perhaps the most astounding guitarist in the world. They'd worked together to create a musical response to the magnificent beauty of the Frio River in Texas.

Jeff went on to say that he and Phil enjoyed each other, trusted each other, and were willing to try things. Their collaboration was marked by a willingness to respond to each other's ideas and vision.

I can't help but think about how this applies to educators. Some of us work on teams that collaborate well together, each member making the others stronger. Some of us are fortunate to have coaches and/or principals in our buildings who lead, instruct, inspire, and encourage.
If we aren't fortunate to have a climate like that, we may have to find our kindred spirits elsewhere. I'll never forget visiting Gail Boushey's classroom many years ago to learn about the different way she and Joan Moser had organized their literacy block to ensure students had time to read and receive exquisite personalized instruction. I felt like I'd found my literacy soul mates. Debbie Miller, Ralph Fletcher, Peter Johnston, Franki Sibberson, and Lucy Calkins have inspired and mentored me through their books. In recent years, I've made the acquaintance of amazing educators like Donalyn Miller, George Couros, Laura Komos, and Jessica Johnson on Twitter. They share, question, push my thinking, and inspire me to take risks and try new things.

If we are going to be the best we can be, we need powerful collaborations. We need a clear vision that is in sharpest focus and then we need to make sure every action and activity in our classrooms matches that vision.

I'm reminded of the quote "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world." (It's been attributed to both Joel Barker and Nelson Mandela. I'm not sure who said it first, but it's a great quote.) If we commit to great collaborations with people who share our vision, we can absolutely change the world one student, one classroom, and one school at a time.