Have you ever had that group that just couldn’t get their sillies out? You know, the gigglers, the nervous laughers, or the kids who are just sharing a private joke or kidding around on the side?
So often, students have spent their days sitting and focusing on work or drilling for standardized testing that by the time they are out of school and able to let loose a little, they have a hard time refocusing on the new learning opportunities and activities we have planned for them. Rather than engage in the same old power struggle, why not mirror the good?
I have had great success refocusing these situations with a simple and fun activity I call “The Laughing Symphony”, which can be found in a book I co-authored called, Focus Your Locus: Activities that Focus the Power of Individuals and Groups, (2010 Wood ‘n’ Barnes Publishing, Bethany, OK).
The Laughing Symphony is an opportunity for groups to either get their sillies out or, if they are too serious, just a chance to get silly. Either way, laughter can be a powerful tool for a teachable moment. The focusing quality of this activity is nothing to scoff at either! Well, I suppose we can giggle at the fact that the outcome of this silly sounding symphony can be one of focus and calm.
No Props or materials are needed for this one, though; at times I have picked up a small stick to use to conduct, much like the baton a conductor of a symphony orchestra might use, for effect.
Have the group circle-up. I usually have them stand fairly close together, but not touching. Ask them if they know what a symphony is and lead them through a brief discussion about how all of the players know when they are supposed to start and stop playing their instruments. They will invariably tell you about the conductor. At this point, let the group know that they are, in fact, going to become part of a symphony orchestra, though this is no ordinary orchestra of woodwinds and strings. For this orchestra, the only instruments we will need are our laughs.
Teach the group your signs for start and stop.
I usually throw in a sign for crescendo and decrescendo (Louder and softer), be creative. Think about the conductors you have seen throughout your experience and then take it to the next level of silliness. The more the group sees your willingness to let it all hang out and get silly, the more they will buy in. I sometimes will have the group warm up with hums and quiet giggles much the way an orchestra tunes up before their performance. I then tap my conductor’s baton (stick!) on my invisible music stand and make sure all eyes are on me. Upon the initial signal to begin, I too commence in loud, ridiculous, over the top laughter, which gives the group the idea of what we’re doing, as well as permission (to those who need it) to be as zany as they wish.
After a minute I will signal the group to stop and give them good strokes for playing along and encourage them that we can end even better. Usually, the first round ends with a few stray giggles and laughs, so I take this opportunity to talk about the importance of ending at precisely the same time, just as the greatest orchestras do. This is one of the ways this activity becomes a focuser. Much like the activity Photo Finish, an activity which can also be found in Focus Your Locus, the object is to end at exactly the same time. Do the activity again. Take notice of the amount of focus that is happening now.
Even those who aren’t as exuberant in their laughter are still engaged and ready to be successful by ending at the same exact time.
The other reason the Laughing Symphony seems to work well as a focuser is because when we laugh, even when we are faking it, we actually reduce the levels of stress hormones such as; cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. Laughter also increases the levels of health enhancing hormones such as endorphins and neurotransmitters, as well as increases amounts of antibody cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells responsible for a strong immune system. Laughter really is good medicine!
This morning, while sitting chuckling along with my three funny and amazing children under the sign in our kitchen, which reads, “Live simply, Laugh often, Love Deeply,” I had a slice of homemade banana nut bread, an egg and cheese sandwich on a multigrain muffin, and a nice big cup of French Roast coffee. Keep Laughing!
Author Profile: @justinmcglamery