Using Humour in Classrooms

b1As someone who tries to be funny all the time, I know it can be quite annoying – my friends constantly tell me to stop making jokes. But the truth is – I cannot help it. If there’s a laugh to be had, I feel I’m letting myself down by not pouncing; it’s like being thrown an underarm ball, and watching it sail over your head. Not all jokes work, but – good or bad – they are usually remembered. And that is what we all are trying to do, right? For instance – teachers impart information in a way that sticks; using the right mix of humour to make classrooms more interactive. The key to make students love the classroom is by making them laugh. The concepts of chemistry or the formulas of mathematics are all available in fancy books, but by dressing them up with right amount of humour or exemplifying them with some jokes, teachers can help students to remember them. (The ‘fancy’ term, though, for this is – stealth teaching).

Some explore humour-writing in their classroom using different fun techniques; like talking about the skill of “covering the punch line”, or to demonstrate the significance of cadence in writing. Result? Students laugh, and wriggle at the awkward behaviour of their teachers, but these tricks do help in making the point about how these fun techniques work. Of course, doing this on a daily basis will be something which is unreal as well as difficult but the key is to keep innovating and looking for newer ideas.

So is it easy for teachers to raise the humour bar? The answer to this is tricky to say the least. There are teachers who come across as a hoot outside the classrooms but the moment they enter their “teaching havens”, their demeanour diminishes and all lark disappear. Possibly it bogs down to discipline. Agreeably, some level of control is needed to keep that firm line between a teacher and a student, as there’s a fine line between being viewed as a joker, or simply a joke. But to think that a certain amount of humour challenges someone’s authority would be equally wrong. Yes a teacher has to remain proficient, but as long as unassailable admiration has been established initially; dropping the guard every now and then is a good thing and will be appreciated by all. One way of doing this is by engaging in ‘bantering’; occasionally a student will say something comical and it’s ok for a teacher to reply. A volley of back and forth between a teacher and their class is enormously valued, however, the trick is just not to worry if your student ends up saying something funny and you don’t have a witty reply to it, then simply congratulate them.

In minds of many kids, teachers are ethereal characters but showing you are actually human can help win them over and think of you more as humanly. Opening up in front of your class about a funny situation shows that you are more than just a teaching machine and have a life outside school. The fact is, injecting a bit of humour into the driest of subjects can go a long way in improving the overall classroom atmosphere. Like many comedians who spend their life on circuit, trying to find their niche, teachers too are constantly looking for that appreciation from their students. For instance, during my school days we had a teacher who continuously came up with clichéd one-liners and only about one in ten actually worked, but we loved him because of his authenticity.

Various party skills like juggling, singing, or an uncanny celebrity impression also work. Also, leading by example like writing down a funny joke and sharing it with your class can be helpful. Also, encouraging students to share their jokes can help. Don’t get heartbroken if your joke doesn’t work, and always remember – nothing funny ever started with: Here’s a great joke. A lot of jokes are centred on prodding fun at noticing things which are familiar to any instance in life in a way that they strike harmony with listeners.


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