Saturday, August 17, 2013

Educators: Taking Humor Seriously

Got stress?  You are not alone!  Educators are feeling the impact of an escalating focus on accountability, requirements and mandates. The purposeful use of humor can rescue educators from the stress of these increased demands. While stress reduction is considered one of the most important benefits of humor, there are numerous additional benefits. 

1.     Captures and retains student attention
2.     Expands student comprehension
3.     Increases the opportunity for memory retention
4.     Builds relationships with students and colleagues
5.     Creates a nurturing environment for learning
6.     Supports classroom management
7.     Helps people cope
8.     Decreases depression
9.     Enhances the joyful craft of teaching and learning
10.   Is fun!

I have been continuously amazed at how challenging it is to incorporate fun, laughter, and humor in educational systems. The higher the grade level, the more difficult it can be to implement humor practice. Some adventuresome high school teachers use cartoons and puns, but often anything else is dismissed as too elementary or childish to be considered.

A high school teacher said,  “We’re not supposed to have parties, although some teachers secretly do. In our school system the clowning and parties need to be kept at the elementary levels.”  When a teacher that I know was moving to second grade after teaching kindergarten for several years, the principal came to her and declared: “now you won’t be able to sing anymore”.  Students in fifth grade told their teacher they were “too old” to have fun anymore.

These are not isolated examples. It takes courage to practice humor especially in school cultures that are focused on accountability. Therefore is imperative that educators clearly understand and be prepared to articulate their goals when initiating humor. Feel free to share the above ten reasons why humor can and should be integrated into education.  (Morrison, 2008) Many teachers are stressed by needing to spend a great deal of time in preparation for state and federal testing. Many are saddened by the fact that there seems to be little time for fun or creativity. The fact is that the purposeful use of humor can help prepare students for that testing.


·      Put a different riddle (based on curriculum) on the bulletin board each day. Students can guess the answer and put the sheet with their name on it in a riddle box. Silly prizes can be awarded for the correct answers. This can be a school-wide activity.
·      A  “Humor Haven” encourages creativity. Provide a small area in the classroom with a mirror and props. Students can choose to become a colorful character in history (related to the content). Drama, storytelling and writing can be integrated as a way to make characters come alive.
·      Joke and riddle books excite even the bored child. Make sure that there is a humor section in the library.
·      Begin each day with a joke or funny story chosen by one of the students. This is a great way for the class clown to shine.
·      Once a week the principal can invite a student to read a joke over the loudspeaker.  Stories and jokes written by students can be shared in the school newsletter.
·      Greet students with secret visual signals that give them a clue about the lesson for the day—any goofy move will do. Refer to the signal when they leave as a reminder of the key point you want them to remember. A study of the cells could initiate a “cell” phone conversation. Three fingers in the air might indicate the three vital things they need to learn that day.
·      Have the students create tests by having each read a part of the text from which they need to create a riddle or a question in the form of a pun. These questions can be used in the actual assessments. 

The above activities are contributed from educators during humor workshops and from numerous classroom visits.  I know there are many educators who do take humor –seriously!  Feel free to share your comments about your humor practice. 

“Don’t take life too seriously –you won’t get out alive!

The information and research has been adapted from Morrison’s book, “Using Humor to Maximize Learning; The Links between Positive Emotions and Education”.  Additional resources can be found on the Humor Quest web site.