A teacher, a student, and a Board of Education person of some magnitude are in a boat…
Take my elementary school principal… please.
Jokes. They are everywhere. Those giggly bits of wisdom and insight can be found in bathroom stalls (some of these even tasteful… sometimes), in books, on television, on billboards; and with the onset of the internet we spot them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Twitter, and some new social media website that is now being worked on which will soon be the next biggest thing.
The opening lines of my blog this week are typical ways to begin a gag fest, and though I have no real punch line for them, I’m sure there’s one in there somewhere. And who can resist the Holy Grail of jokes, the ubiquitous pun? Whenever I have the chance to visit classrooms, I love to throw in the occasional pun during my talks, just waiting for someone to groan. When they do (and they always do), it’s like my doctor just gave me a huge shot of adrenaline. Game on!
Okay, I’m going somewhere with this.
Question: Do you use humor in your classroom? Why do you, or why don’t you? Would you rather have your students maintain civility throughout the day, or perhaps use a little mirth to challenge them? There are many ways to employ a tongue-in-cheekedness philosophy in the space you call the classroom, and there are some opportune times to do so.
Like anything that makes a person feel good (chocolate, coffee, The Hobbit trailers), humor needs to be doled out in regulated amounts so as not to overstimulate the receiver. Especially in the classroom. But you knew that.
Here are a few things to try with your subjects, sorry, pupils. I find that a caption contest is probably the simplest way to engage your students without a lot of fuss. Find a single panel cartoon from the newspaper, or even a photo of some kind from an online news source; it really doesn’t have to be anything special. Just keep it simple, but make sure the image has something unusual about it. You can make copies to hand around, or you can make a large version and hang it on the board. Ask your students to come up with a caption, then vote on a few winners. Have the students explain how they came about their captions, and perhaps ask if anyone would care to build upon a winning caption.
You can also have your students use synonyms to rewrite familiar lines of poetry or rhymes. “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece as white as snow.” becomes “Mary was in charge of a smallish ewe, its wooly covering as bleached as frozen water vapor.” What about a Robert Frost poem written as a rap?
Yo woods are here, I know, I know.
His village house (the one wit snow!)
Okay, I’ll stick to blogging. Give your students a bit more time, and ask them to collect humorous examples of some subject you’re studying (politicians, past and present are always good material), whether it’s the weather, or the periodic table. Or you can ask them to write their own material. Be sure to tell them that puns are perfectly acceptable and often looked for (see a previous paragraph).
The timing of humor in your classroom is worthy of respect as well. You can use humor to defuse an otherwise tense situation, but use it early, before the situation gets out of hand. A few minutes of laughter can snap your pupils (and yourself) from a lunch-induced, mid-afternoon stupor as well. Nodding heads and glazed looks will be your first indication that it’s time to pull something from your joke book, which by the way, I highly recommend that you fill and maintain. If you happen to “rate” those funny pearls of wisdom, be sure to share them with other teachers as well.
Something else to keep in mind… the one way to avoid making any one individual the subject of a joke, is to use yourself. Many times I am my own best target.
Keep it light, be sure to use physical mannerisms (a goofy face, a weird stance) to “sell” your plan, and above all, listen. When kids relax a bit, you can learn a great deal from them.
A little girl walks into an astronomer’s office and exclaims “My teacher says I’m the brightest pupil in her class!” The astronomer replies “Are you Sirius?”
Teach. Learn. Enjoy!