by Patrick Kelley, author of Teaching Smarter
What use does humor have in the classroom? See Patrick Kelley’s Top Ten Answers:
(Note: Let’s define humor as positive exaggerations, puns, and funny stories directed at a neutral party. Avoid using your students as the topic of humor.)
10. Humor reduces stress in the classroom. After a laugh, an atmosphere of cooperation enters the room. Use political cartoons as starters. Critical thinking and knowledge are benefits that come after the chuckle.
9. Humor increases creativity. One good pun creates another. Start the class with a famous quote on the whiteboard and ask students to give it a “modern touch.” You will definitely get a laugh, and students will increase their knowledge.
8. Humor reduces negative talk. It is hard to complain after smiling. Have students begin the class by writing captions to a photo you have chosen to introduce your lesson.
7. Humor creates more memorable lessons. I once put a small pebble on everyone’s desk before the start of a class debate on the legalization of pot. Can you think of a pun? They sure could.
6. Humor leads to more work being completed. Humor is like an appetizer. Your students may not start out all that hungry for what you have to offer that day, but throw in a little humor and they are ready to finish the plate. Have them start by writing a limerick on the concept you are presenting. Of course, share out loud.
5. Humor leads to fewer discipline problems. It’s hard to defy authority when you’re smiling. Open with a short video clip that students have made on their cell phones. I have them give it to me on a flash drive. It can be an imitation of you teaching a past lesson. In this way, you can review what you have already taught and assess what they remember. You will love (I hope) to see how they view your teaching mannerisms.
4. Humor creates more student “buy in.” When introducing a new topic or concept, begin by putting students in groups and having them draw pictures of what they already know or think about the topic on small whiteboards (like Pictionary). Warning: There will be laughter.
3. Humor improves your relationship with families. Dealing with parents is tough at times. When parents hear how much their son or daughter loves your class, it becomes easier for them to accept what you have to say in times of stress. Try having students warm up (for example) by telling how their dad/uncle/friend would have handled the topic of that day’s lesson. This provides laughter and valuable insight into the people in your students’ lives.
2. Humor is team- and family-building. We rarely laugh with our enemies because laughing brings people closer. Introduce your lessons with sound effects. They never fail to amuse and engage younger students. Don’t have any recorded sounds? Ask your students what would be (for example) a good sound effect for a dangling participle or a trapezoid? Every time they hear trapezoid they will remember its auditory definition.
1. Humor = You write this one! I am eager to hear what you use to start the class on the right foot—with humor or something equally good. Thanks!
Patrick Kelley, M.A., has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from California State University San Bernardino and a bachelor’s degree in history from Castleton State College in Vermont. He has been a classroom teacher for more than twenty-five years. He has experience as a mentor teacher and an AP coordinator as well as ten years of experience with the AVID program. He is certified in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) and currently works with the International Baccalaureate program. Patrick provides workshops and presentations to districts, schools, and teams. Visit him at www.patrickkelleybooks.com.
Patrick Kelley is the author of Teaching Smarter: An Unconventional Guide to Boosting Student Success.
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