As you know, groups of contented, smiling learners don't just happen. Teachers create them. Medical science has proved the critical nature of humor. It boosts the endorphin level in our brains, thereby boosting morale. With a "BOO!" around every corner lately, we need as many laughs as we can get.
"Gloom we will always have with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending."
"Wit is the only wall between us and the dark."
-Mark Van Doren (poet, novelist, critic)
The Courage To Teach (20th Anniversary Edition) by Parker J. Palmer
Laughing All The Way: Your Sense of Humor. Don’t Leave Home Without It (2016), by John Morreau
Compassionate Laughter: Jest for Your Health, by Patty Wooten, R.N.
Head First : The Biology of Hope by Norman Cousins, Dutton, 1989
Playing With words
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 overall--a major 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 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, "publish" these winning jokes as your class's Great Howlers Selection. This game encourages even the shy kids to participate. 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? No? It works, doesn't it?
Combine this activity with Joke of The Day, or keep them as separate activities. (For a student, astounding your teacher with a memorable quote is very satisfying.)
~~"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 (Author of Charlotte’s Web)
~~This is the shortest book review on record, as far as I know: "The covers of this book are too far apart." -Ambrose Bierce (Am. satirist)
And my favorite: "The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." -(Eden Phillpots, Brit. Writer, Playwright, Poet)
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
Today, our lives have new tensions, new fears. The tragedy in New York on Sept. 9, 2011, changed us; the pandemic Covid-19 changed us even more. When we go forward mindfully and with joy, we are not being foolish, we are being brave.