Humor can be a powerful tool in the classroom. As I’ve written elsewhere before, Humor plays a large role in my teaching. I use jokes to lighten the mood and make learning fun. I use self-deprecating humor so that students feel comfortable challenging me and so that they understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I use humorous stories to establish rapport. And I make silly skits and demonstrations of words or grammar points so that students will remember them.
But humor is also different from culture to culture and from person to person. And while they say if you have to explain a joke, it isn’t funny anymore, people love talking about what makes them laugh. And some humor does seem to transcend cultural and national boundaries. Look at the universal appeal of Jackie Chain, Mr. Bean or Jim Carrey’s early movies, for example.
All that is to say, that a great warmer or filler activity, is to ask students to share something that makes them laugh. It gets students talking and using the language. But it does more than that. As Teresa X. Nguyen writes in the introduction to 60 Positive Activities for Every Classroom, activities that encourage students to focus on the positive can increase student motivation, help them focus on tasks, and even build resilience in the face of academic challenges. And we certainly know that stress and negative emotions can hinder learning.
Fun and happiness are obviously not the only factor that a classroom needs, but positivity is a powerful tool that can support better learning outcomes. And it’s something every student will have something to say about. And after letting your students talk about humor and ways to make them laugh in the classroom, they’ll be ready to tackle more difficult or less interesting tasks.