Teaching Through Humour

How can humour  be an effective tool in teaching and in creating the affective second language classroom?  The focus is on the use of cartoons with practical examples of how to use and adapt this particular resource. One doesn’t have to be a gifted humorist to reap the benefits of using humour in the classroom.

„Classrooms in which laughter is welcome help bring learning to life.”

Much has been written in recent years about the importance of the affective environment in the second language classroom. Such classrooms are ones in which learners are not afraid to take risks and use their second language. Students are encouraged and praised for their efforts to always use their second language in class. Students don’t face ridicule, nor negative criticism. Error correction is appropriate, timely, constructive and seeks to instill confidence in each student.

However, at times we overlook humour as an important element in teaching, in teacher training and how humour can contribute to a positive environment for learning. Trainees and in-service teachers are not always given the opportunity to examine the impact of their own preferences of teaching styles or their own willingness to use certain strategies, such as humour in the language teaching. Because of the lack of time to explore such personal views we may be missing an opportunity to enhance learning in our classrooms.

Kristmanson (2000) emphasizes this need to create a welcoming classroom for language learning:

In order to take risks, you need a learning environment in which you do not feel threatened or intimidated. In order to speak, you need to feel you will be heard and that what you’re saying is worth hearing. In order to continue your language learning, you need to feel motivated. In order to succeed, you need an atmosphere in which anxiety levels are low and comfort levels are high. Issues of motivation and language anxiety are key to this topic of affect in the second language classroom.

As an English teacher, I have found out that most of the reading texts were not entertaining, not to mention the grammar load. Most of the texts consist of various information on a certain targeted item; besides the novelty factor they bring for the students and the information they allow them to aquire, there is nothing else to be noted. Consequently, I looked for a new approach, trying to relax the classroom atmosphere when it was too tense or too boring. It was not always easy, as some of the learners did not understand the jokes or the riddles from the beginning ( I think it is most valuable when they get it from the first time; if you translate it, it’s not the same). I tried to search more about this topic and learn better ways to make my classes more interesting and appealling. I tried some of the activities with my students and I happilly discovered that they liked it very much.

Humour is a human trait which allows shy students to participate in the group activity, allows pupils get a sense of in-group membership. However, in order not to lose control of  the classroom, it must be well prepared and have a specific objective. It is important to keep in mind a few „rules” so that the humour used during the class should be effective: humour should rise naturally, not to be forced, it should fit the teacher’s personality and make an integral part of the class, depending on the content of the lesson.

Teachers are those who must be creative and develop a positive learning enviroment. It has been demonstrated that students tend to learn more effectively and efficiently from a person who uses humour frequently. The appropiate use of humour is a powerful tool to build a sense of community, promote creativity and reduce conflict.

”Funny activities” – activities we may use during our classes, combining vocabulary and grammar items teaching with a humorous approach using jokes, cartoons, misprints and funny stories.

A pun is a play upon words-usually one word with two meanings. Complete these jokes with puns.
1. Have you notice any …. in me?
No, Why?
I’ve just swallowed some coins accidentally.
2. Some girls think I’m handsome and some girls think I’m horrible. What do you think, Mary?
A bit of both, ….  … .
3. You have to be rich to play golf.
Then why are there so many … players?
4. I think we’ve just had a puncture.
How did it happen?
There was a … in the road.
5. Well son, how was your first day at the new school?
Great! The teacher is going to give me a gift.
How do you know that?
Well, when I arrived, she pointed to a chair in the corner and said:”Sit over there for the …”
6. Why did the two astronauts decide to leave the restaurant on the moon and return to one on the Earth?
7. I’m going to have to put you in a prison cell for the night.
What’s the … ,Officer?
Nothing. It’s all part of the service.!
8.Why did park your car on the yellow lines?
Because the sigh says “……FOR PARKING”.
9. What do you call a happy tin in the USA?
A …………..!

Present                             fork                                        fine
Pretty ugly                       atmosphere                             merry can
Change                             charge


prof. Hermina Udrescu

Școala Gimnazială Sf.Nicolae, Târgu-Jiu (Gorj) , România
Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/hermina.udrescu

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