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Do you use humour in the classroom?

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Three school girls laughingIn this post, Jeremy Taylor, a freelance writer and teacher trainer based in Czech Republic, explores the benefits of using humour in the classroom to engage students and improve their learning.

Do you have a good sense of humour? Do you use your humour in the classroom? A class that is laughing and having fun is a relaxed class and more receptive to learning, as I have found over 25 years of teaching. Humour is a very difficult thing to get right but it is a wonderful addition to the classroom. It is a useful tool to engage your learners and make your lessons (even) more interesting. But also:

  • Students are also likely to repeat jokes and humorous stories they have heard.
  • If they know they will be rewarded with a laugh, they are more likely to be motivated to read.
  • Jokes tend to be short – so can be enjoyed by even the weakest students.
  • Jokes are memorable.
  • You can learn a lot about a nation’s culture through its humour.

Of course when using humour you should be able to laugh with your students not at them.  Laughing at your students is horribly unprofessional and I’ve only done it once in my career.

Is it possible to use jokes in the classroom? It definitely is, but you need to decide whether the joke is cultural appropriate and also whether the joke will be understood by your students. Jokes that rely on a play on words are unlikely to be understood. There are lots of jokes for children like this.

“Where do you take a horse when he is sick?”

“To horsepital!”

Native speaker children find such humour hilarious. Some of your students will understand it. “Ah, it is a joke because the word ‘horse’, sounds similar to the word hospital.” But they probably won’t split their sides laughing.

There are many different ways you can use jokes in the classroom. One popular way is for students to match up the two halves of a joke.

“Doctor, doctor, I’ve only got 59 seconds to live!” “Don’t worry, sir. There’s a spider on your bread.”
“Doctor, doctor, I keep thinking I’m invisible!” “Who said that?”
“Doctor, doctor, people keep ignoring me.” “Next please!”
“Waiter, waiter! There’s a fly in my soup!” “Yes, sir. I think he’s learning to ski.”
“Waiter, waiter! There’s a fly on my ice cream!” “Wait a minute please.”

If you have ten students, give them one part of the joke each and they have one minute to find their partner – the person with the other half of their joke.

I find jokes that are good visually work well. To finish, here’s one that is popular with adults. The vocabulary is simple, there’s some nice repetition and for the weaker students, your miming will help their understanding. While reading, can you see the mimes you could do while telling this joke?

“A romantic man goes into a café and sees a beautiful woman. He goes out of the café to a flower shop and he buys a big red rose. He then goes back to the café and gives the rose to the woman. ‘This is because you are very beautiful!” says the man.

“Thank you very much, says the woman. “I’ll put it in a glass of water next to my bed.”

“No, no, no,” says the man. “You are a very beautiful woman! You must hold the rose between your teeth!”

“Yes,” said the woman. “Between my teeth, in a glass of water, next to my bed.”

I would love to hear from anyone who uses jokes in the classroom. I would like to know how you use them and if you have any great jokes suitable for the classroom, I am sure we would all like to hear them.

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10 thoughts on “Do you use humour in the classroom?

  1. Pingback: La importancia del humor en clase | Cosas que encuentro para clase

  2. “Laughing atyour students is horribly unprofessional and I’ve only done it once in my career.”

    I really wonder about the teaching and life experience of people who say this sort of thing. If students can laugh at me, why can’t I laugh at them?

    Laughing at someone is not the same as humiliating them. If I laugh at a student then he thinks, right teacher, you got me there – I’m not going to get caught out like that again. A little bit of face loss spurs people to do well. It’s a good motivator. But beyond all this, anyone who is above being laughed at is not living in the real world.

    Jokes are funny, picking them apart is not. Classes on humour are extremely hard to do without being lame and they don’t spur much learning at all. All they do is cause a lot of bemusement on the students’ part and while the teacher has to expend a lot of hot air in trying to explain them.

  3. This is an article we wrote on humour in the classroom some time ago with a list of jokes which can be used in the classroom: http://teflworldwiki.com/index.php/Humour

    I agree that humour is one of the best tools you can use in the classroom as long as the humour is appropriate. And a bad joke with a groan from your class is still worth it!

  4. of course,,, if you start laughing you will enjoy the activity you are doing,,, that is a fact

  5. 10. Ever tried honeymoon salad? It is lettuce alone.
    11. Some people are on seefood diets: they see food…they eat is.
    12. Your nose is in the scenter of your face.
    13. Laser surgery on knees is done with knee-on lights.
    14. Waiting for her photos to be developed, a young girl sang, “Some day my prints
    will come.”
    Two longer ones, one of them when there is a lesson on different nationalities and the other in Christmas-time:
    15. I like European food so I decided to Russia over there because I was Hungary.
    After Czech’ing the menu I ordered Turkey. When I was Finnished I told the
    waiter, Spain good, but there is Norway I could eat another bite.
    16. In the city of Moscow, there lived a communist named Rudolph. One day the
    weather suddenly turned terrible.
    “Goodness”, exclaimed his wife, “snow.”
    “No,” said Rudolph, “it’s rain!”
    “I still stay it’s snow, “yelled the wife.
    “Look,”, he insisted, “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”
    In connection with literature:
    17.A college freshman fell asleep in his 8.00 English class. The professor, not too
    pleased, threw a book at him.
    “What was that?” asked the startled student.
    “That”, replied the professor, “was a flying Chaucer.”
    More examples from everyday life:
    18. I was walking along a beach in Greece with a young woman when we came upon
    the body of a sting ray washed up on shore. “Oooh” she exclaimed, “Is it dead?”
    “Yes,” I assured her, “It’s an ex-ray!”
    19. A lawyer for a church did some cross-examining.
    20. When the waiter was asked if crabs were served in his restaurant he replied – oh
    yes… we serve anybody!
    21. Some who go sip also gossip.
    22. Jim: ‘Did you hear about the guy who ate twenty pancakes for breakfast?’
    Joe: ‘How waffle’
    23. Some people’s noses and feet are built backwards: their feet smell and their noses
    run.
    24. Surgeons often have to have an open heart and an open mind.
    25. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his
    grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, ‘No change yet’.
    Finally if the students are confused enough we could show them how misleading English can be:
    26. A husband with little English struggled to explain that his wife could not have
    children, saying ‘she is unbearable`. Getting a blank stare, he tried, ‘she is
    impregnable’. Then finally he figured he had it: “she is inconceivable!”

    I think if students bump into these words in connection with puns, they are more likely to remember them afterwards. In addition, they will definitely enjoy the English lessons and think of you as a very good English teacher.

  6. Oh, and here are some that I used when I taught phrasal verbs. (Students had to match the two halves.)

    – Take me to the fifth floor, please.

    – Here we are, son.

    – Don’t call me son! You’re not my father!

    – Well, I brought you up, didn’t I?

    – Why do birds in a nest always agree?

    – Because they don’t want to fall out.

    – Did you put the cat out, dear?

    – No, was it on fire?

    – What training do you need to become a rubbish collector?

    – None, you pick it up as you go along.

    – Doctor, I can’t get to sleep at night.

    – Try lying on the edge of the bed – you’ll soon drop off.

    – How did you know he was a ghost?

    – I saw through him immediately.

    • I love these! I hope you don’t mind that I copied them to use in my FCE prep class! They will love this way of learning ‘boring’ phrasal verbs! Any other interesting ideas for getting them to expand their knowledge and practice phrasal verbs?

  7. i agree with the writer humour is very important … to bring sum attention in classroom

  8. it should read “… IT’s learning to ski.”

    i spot these mistakes within seconds of perusal
    of English learning material, far too frequently, I’m afraid.
    Publishers are badly in need of opening a post for ‘proof-reading b4 go-to-print’
    no joke

  9. @ luan – spot on! i agree fully

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