Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.
Did you know that using humor in your classroom can help your students learn? In a Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association) article titled “How laughing leads to learning,” author Zak Stambor reports “when used effectively, classroom comedy can improve student performance by reducing anxiety, boosting participation and increasing students’ motivation to focus on the material.”
Before you start jotting down those one-liners, consider the following guidelines before implementing comedy in the classroom:
Timing is everything. Plan out when you’re going to insert your comedy into your instruction. Students may remember the content better if it is tied to something memorable, like a humorous anecdote or joke.
Keep it appropriate. It’s best to avoid foul language, no matter how “mature” your students might be. Also, be sure the comedy is age appropriate. If students don’t understand the joke, it will have less impact.
Make it relevant. Your humor should be connected to the content being taught, but also to the students whom you are teaching. Don’t use an outdated joke for a modern concept. You’ll be hearing crickets instead of giggles.
Know your audience. Will the class lose focus if you get too silly? Adjust your level of humor and its frequency according to the needs of each class.
Get funny before a big test! Using a bit of comedy before a big test can reduce student anxiety and improve performance.
Don’t overuse it. You don’t have to be funny ALL the time. Your students may miss important content if you’re constantly cracking jokes.
Avoid sarcasm. Some students may not perceive your style of sarcasm and can be put off by your flavor of humor. Some people may also feel offended by sarcasm; they see it as a lack of respect.
What if I’m just not that funny? No need to worry. If you can’t get them laughing, you should at least be able to put a smile on your students’ faces using some of these suggestions:
- Incorporate memes, videos, or songs
- Add funny items to test/assignment questions
- Post funny quotes in the classroom
- Dedicate a bulletin board to jokes, cartoons, puns, etc. Ask students to bring in items.
- Have a Joke-of-the-Day, invite students to share
- Laugh at yourself, share with students your own ridiculous experiences and stories
Humor can be an effective teaching tool. Capturing the attention of students with a joke may help them remember content more clearly. A bit of classroom comedy can also lower student stress and anxiety levels and improve student engagement. Having a bit of a funny bone also makes you seem more human to your students, thus creating a more comfortable setting where students are more likely to learn.
Stambor, Zak. “How laughing leads to learning.” Monitor on Psychology, vol. 37, no. 6, June 2006, p. 62. American Psychological Association.