Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hygge in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Have you heard of hygge yet? It's a Danish word pronounced "hue-guh" and is used to acknowledge that feeling you get when you are cozy and safe and have a "warm and fuzzy" feeling that fills you with joy.

Since I'm participating in a 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop Giveaway with the theme of "Comfort and Joy," I thought Hygge would be a perfect topic!

I initially picked up this adorable little hygge book because I wanted to practice more hygge within my home, but as with most things, I immediately began thinking about how my classroom could benefit from the elements of hygge as well.

While the book goes in depth about the Danish culture of hygge and its entire meaning, I'm only going to highlight the parts that lend well to creating a cozy classroom full of comfort and joy.

7 Hygge Ideas for Your Secondary ELA Classroom: 

1. Thoughtful, Soft Lighting- The Danes place a huge emphasis on lighting. Danish light fixtures are not only stunning, but they are placed in homes so that they provide warm pools of light exactly where they are needed. While I can't replace my harsh fluorescent lights, I can add lots of thrift store lamps and string Christmas lights (I always stock up on these when they are half price after Christmas!). These light choices help to create a homey and happy classroom.

A book speed dating activity that you can read more about here: Book Speed Dating 

2. Natural Materials and Items from Nature- Schools can be very sterile and are normally furnished with synthetic materials. Unless you bring in natural elements, your classroom will feel cold and disconnected from nature. One way to do this is to slowly add wooden furniture over time as you can afford it. As the author of The Little Book of Hygge explains, "Wood makes us feel closer to nature; it is simple and natural, just like the concept of hygge" (Williams 100). For some amazing wood tone inspiration, check out Write On With Ms. G's classroom! She won a grant to purchase flexible seating, and I absolutely love the homey feeling it created!

Another way to bring in natural elements is through plants. Plants have a way of cleaning the air, lowering stress, and giving students something to care for. Sadly, I don't have any windows in my room, but I do bring in bouquets as often as possible and designed these Nature-Themed Literary Device Posters to display in my windowless room.

3. An Impression of a Fireplace- Because of their primal ability to promote togetherness, fire and candles are key components of hygge in Danish homes. While these would be a fire hazard in schools, there are ways to incorporate this key element of hygge without burning down your classroom. ;) First, you could find a light only faux fireplace or make one yourself using a Christmas lights and some branches.

A faux fireplace I found for $5 at a yard sale 

Another option for creating a fireplace in your classroom is one that I am constantly telling people about because IT IS SO AWESOME.

Behold, a Harry Potter Ambient Sound YouTube Station 😍: 

Almost every Harry Potter room on this YouTube station has a fireplace and lovely fireplace sounds. They are also seasonal, so I always choose ones with snow during the winter. :)

4. Smells of Love- We all know that smells have an uncanny ability to engage the memory recall in our brains, so the Danes use smells to evoke happy memories which is a key component of hygge. Why not apply this phenomenon to teaching as well? If you have ever used scents in your room, then you know that's the first thing students notice and comment on when they walk in. I use a cheap essential oil diffusor as a subtle indicator of how our lesson will go that day. For example, peppermint oil is great for keeping student alert when learning a new concept and lavender is a nice oil to use when a more mellow vibe is needed. My students love this diffuser because it changes colors and puts out smells that aren't too overwhelming.

My classroom diffuser is on the bookshelf to the left. 

I also love the idea of having one signature classroom smell every day of the year so that students automatically feel "at home" and comfortable when they walk into your classroom each day.

5. Activities for Togetherness- Numerous studies have shown that Danes are possibly the happiest people in the world, and a key component of hygge--togetherness--might explain why. Williams reports, "in all the work I have done within the field of happiness research, this is the point I am surest about: the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships"(34). Therefore, if social relationships are a certain predictor of happiness, it is important to design lessons that promote togetherness.

Ideas include: 
*Games (Quizlet Live and Kahoot Teams are great fun and promote teamwork)
*Organizing a charity goal to work toward (Mud Ink and Teaching has some ideas for you!)
*Hosting respectful and productive class discussions (How to Liven Up Your Socratic Seminar)

6. Making Time for Books- Taking a break with a good book is a picturesque component of hygge. While this is a controversial topic in regards to how precious classroom time should be spent, I'm a HUGE proponent of carving out daily reading time for myself and my students. My classes are 90 minutes long, so I devote the first 10 minutes of class time to free-choice reading and vocabulary acquisition. You can read more about that here: How to Incorporate Free-Choice Reading with Older Students 
Follow me on Instagram @BsBookLove

7. Relaxing Strategies- Hygge is all about creating space and time in your day that is stress -free and relaxing. While this is better achieved at home and not in a classroom where one should be productive, I do feel that it's important to combat the overdrive of stresses that our students face on a daily basis. Relaxing strategies can include classroom literary yoga and coloring for comprehension (that las link to The Language Arts Classroom who has a ton of grammar coloring pages!)

As you read through this list, you probably recognized hygge things you already do without even knowing you were doing them! Now there's a researched book to prove what a wonderful classroom environment you are creating for those special students in your life. 💓 Do you have any other ideas for fostering hygge in your classroom? Comment below!

Don't forget to visit our 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop and Giveaway for lots of prizes and ideas for your classroom!

*This post contains affiliate links* 


  1. I adore these hygge strategies for the classroom, especially because I feel students learn more and retain concepts longer when they feel relaxed, comfortable, nurtured, supported, and valued -- hygge definitely helps create supportive, nurturing environments! This book is definitely going on my must-read list. Thank you for the recommendation & ideas!


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