Humor in the Classroom
Gloom we will always have with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.
The best learning occurs in a pleasant, upbeat environment. But groups of smiling learners don't just happen. Teachers create them. How do they do that? We'll discuss how right here. That's what this page is all about. The more students and teachers share laughter, the more they will bond together as friends.
Medical science has proof that laughter is a critical component of life. It boosts the endorphin level in our brains, thereby boosting morale. Like exercise, laughter makes us feel better physically and mentally. It helps even very young children put problems into perspective or into the background altogether. With a "BOO!" around every corner lately, we need as many laughs as we can get.
Wit is the only wall between us and the dark.
-Mark Van Doren (poet, novelist, critic)
IDEA: Check out the latest about the healthful effects of humor on the internet. Or, try the following:
Using Humor to Develop Creative Thinking,: by A. Ziv in Humor and Children's Development: A Guide to Practical Applications edited by P. McGhee and A. Chapman; Haworth, 1989.
Compassionate Laughter: Jest for Your Health; by Patty Wooten, R.N., Commune-A-Key Pub., 1996; also Heart, Humor and Healing
How to Be Funnier: Happier, Healthier, and More Successful Too! by Roger Bates, Trafton Pub., 1995.
Head First : The Biology of Hope by Norman Cousins, Dutton, 1989.
"Humor In The Brain: What Happens When We Laugh"--Interview with Peter Derks: in Humor and Health Journal, 4 (5) 1995, pp. 1-7.
Humor and Life Stress: Antidote to Adversity by Hubert Lefcourt and Rod Martin, Springer-Verlag, 1986; also, "Humor and Immune System Function," by Lefcourt, et.al., in International Journal of Humor Research, (3) 1990, pp. 305-321.
Today, our lives have new tensions, new fears. We are not the same as we were before the tragedy on September 11th, 2001. When we go forward with joy, we are not being disrespectful, we are being brave.
After some heavy lifting with new math concepts or a tough writing assignment, try a few verbal games and jokes. Students need to practice using logic to become verbally nimble, which translates into nimble thinking overall¾a great goal in language learning.
The Game of Stinky Pinkies:
Q: What do we call filthy fingers? (You ask the class.) A: Stinky pinkies! (Answer must rhyme and be synonymous with the words in the question.)
Q: What's a glad Dad? A: A happy pappy! (This is a double, and much harder.)
Q: What's a fat cat? A: A flabby tabby! Q: What's a silly fowl? A: A jerky turkey!
Q: What do we call someone who purchases chickens? A: A fryer buyer!
Q: What do we call the kid who adopted 40 puppies? A: A dog hog!
Each Tuesday (any day you select) is Joke of the Day competition: Students who choose to participate stand up in front of the class and deliver the joke, in true stand-up-comic fashion. The class votes on the best one, and you post it on an index card on your BEST JOKES Bulletin Board, along with the joke-teller's name.
At the end of each grading period, collect and "publish" these winning jokes as your class's Great Howlers Selection. This game encourages even the shy kids to "present" something. In time, speaking skills improve, guaranteed. Also, you're sending a message about the importance of laughing together.
- Yesterday, at my veterinarian's office, I read a sign in his waiting room. It said, "Doctor will be with you shortly. SIT. STAY."
- How can I avoid getting a sharp pain in my eye when I drink root beer floats? Ans. Take the spoon out of the glass.
- How does an elephant hide from hunters? Ans. She paints her toenails red and sits in a cherry tree?
- Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree? Ans. No? Well then, it works, doesn't it?
You can combine this activity with Joke of The Day, but I like to keep the two separate. Memorable quotes can be lots of fun, and astounding your teacher with one is a very satisfying thing for a student. e.g.,
- My books are friends that never fail me. ---Thomas Carlyle (19th c. British historian)
- Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. ---Richard Steele 18th C. playwright and essayist
- "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog: few people are interested, and the frog dies of it." ~E. B. White
- Her mind is so open that the wind whistles through it. ~Heywood Broun
- This is the shortest book review on record, as far as I know. "The covers of this book are too far apart." ~Ambrose Bierce
- "The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." ~Eden Phillpots
Dopey Definitions (a verbal game)
Offer a few examples like the ones below, then turn the students loose and see what happens. This is another exercise in verbal logic/dexterity, like Stinky Pinkies.
- Climate---the only thing you can do with a ladder.
- Camel---a horse designed by a committee
- Atom---a male cat
- Antifreeze---a close relative lacking warm underwear
- Adamant---the first insect in the world
- Boycott---a crib that is not good for baby girls
- Macaroni---famed inventor of the wireless: the first man to send a voiced message through a length of spaghetti
- Shampoo---imitation poo
- Stalemate---old or worn out partner
- And how is it that my nose runs and my feet smell???
Again, you can vote on the best ones, collect, and publish them. You're working with words and their meanings in and out of context, perfectly on task.