Teaching should be joyful. Learning should be joyful.

The work with the teachers and students again went well today. Following their cues, we delved deeper into using music, singing, and song lyrics to teach reading, vocabulary, spelling, and story structure. The teachers were deeply impressed with this teaching technique as it addressed their concern of how to teach the required curriculum which is heavy on rote mandates regarding the conventions of literacy with their desire to engage the children in real storytelling and understanding of text in an environment that is simply more fun for everyone.

The LitWorld team reviewed the techniques involved in teaching reading through song. A preview of new vocabulary words, word work through identifying all the words starting with a certain letter, then shared reading of the words line by line through learning the song. Then assigning motions or movements to certain parts of the song – all volunteered by the students and every step of the process reinforcing the ones before it.  Then the teacher led the song one time through, with the kids delightedly beginning to sing along and energetically doing the physical motions. Second time around was a rousing rendition led by the kids, reading by singing, and acting out the story of the song.

As is the LitWorld method, the teachers co-taught the lessons and did a great job leading the singing and creatively teaching the new vocabulary and spelling words to the kids.

At the end-of-the-day meeting the teachers were extremely enthusiastic about this technique, as the kids genuinely integrated more meaning, vocabulary and word study in 25 minutes of enjoyment than they had received in a week’s worth of desk work with index cards.  This approach also requires only a chalk board, chalk, and human voices – maximum outcomes with minimal materials.

We broke for lunch and used the time not only to have a delicious meal of rice and beef stew (devoured by the teachers – LitWorld is providing these meals as we feed both their bodies and their minds), but to simply celebrate the beauty of music. Not only as a teaching tool, but as one of the most fun things on earth.

The LW interns had loaded my iPod with music for the kids to dance to. Adding our own noise to the cacophony of Kibera, we cranked up the handheld speaker and had a brief but amazing dance party right in the small courtyard of the school. MoTown, the Kinks, some Beatles and other great songs had the kids raucously doing the funky chicken (they call it the kookoo dance), conga-lining it, and generally bopping around with a moshpit-like exuberance that was phenomenal.  I guess that was the gym class for the day, and it was a good one.

Jeff Okoth, who runs the school, told us this morning that the best thing that LitWorld brings to his teachers (on top of all the practical advice on how to teach reading and writing in hugely effective ways) is the idea that there should be joy in classrooms. Teaching should be joyful. Learning should be joyful. He said that is the profound change that LitWorld has brought to Red Rose.

Joy is sometimes in short supply here. And perhaps it is hard to measure joy, but it is one of those things that you know it when you see it, and we saw a lot of it today.

And as for measuring things . . .

LitWorld will proudly hold its programs and results to any data metric out there, in terms of student achievement, student progress, teacher satisfaction, teacher competency levels, direct replicability of programming, turn-key establishment of local on-site leaders capable of leveraging the work and effectively integrating it into the essence of the community, and use of technology and innovative thinking to create real impact on-site with the most prudent use of its resources.

We will accept that challenge thrown down by a non-profit environment that is increasingly and relentlessly data driven, replicability obessed, cost/benefit analyzing, corporatizing, show me the algorithm proving that my money is realizing the most data-provable “return” on its investment. And we will thrive in that environment without overstating, or inflating, or exaggerating the effectiveness of everything we do. For there are many pluses that come from a sharp-penciled analysis of what is actually being achieved by a non-profit, and LitWorld will pass any such test with flying colors.

Maybe, though, we all should start thinking about how that the equation and analysis ought to include some factors that are all too often ignored, perhaps because they are harder to measure. Factors like joy, and happiness, and hope, and experiencing kindness in the world.

People strive for what is being measured. Let’s put a number on love.