In 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?”
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.