When you think about the best teachers you had in school, you probably don’t think about the boring ones. The teachers you remember are likely the ones who were engaging, capturing your attention and mind. That’s the kind of teacher you want to be. And few things can help you capture a classroom’s attention—and help your students learn—like humor. In fact, researchers have found that interjecting humor into a classroom lesson or lecture can improve learning outcomes.*
So, how can you be funny in a way that still promotes learning? Try these tips.
The first step in being humorous in the classroom is to get comfortable with that classroom. Get a sense of the students and let them get a sense of you. After you’ve established a basic rapport, you can let the humor fly.
Make Fun of Yourself
Students expect their teachers to be cold and overly serious. You can upend those expectations by making fun of your quirks, appearance, age, etc. This demonstration of self-awareness can be quite funny and can create an atmosphere where humor is welcome.
Another way to upend your students’ expectations is to do something weird. Wear a strange hat or talk in a funny voice or start dancing down the rows of desks. Weird behavior seems completely out of place in a classroom and thus is a great way to make students laugh.
Bring in Cartoons
No one said you have to make all the jokes. Cartoons and comic strips are a great source of humor and can be injected into almost any lesson. If you look, you can find cartoons and comic strips addressing everything from mathematics to chemistry to geography to the general aggravations of being a student.
Acknowledge Bureaucratic Absurdity
Does your school or state require you and/or your students to do something you find pointless? If so, it’s likely your students see it as pointless, too. Making fun of bureaucratic ridiculousness can lighten the mood.
Reference Pop Culture
Students typically think of teachers as past their prime and disconnected from modern culture. This means that when you throw a pop culture reference into the class, many students will be surprised and amused. You can do everything from dropping the lyrics of a popular song into a lecture to using a popular TV show or movie to illustrate a point.
Whether you launch into a random song to get students’ attention or sing a song to help them remember something like the capitals of the 50 states, singing will often bring smiles to your students’ faces. Don’t worry if you can’t hold a tune—that makes your singing even more amusing.
And don’t let an inability to draw keep you from drawing on the whiteboard or overhead. Not only is drawing a great way to illustrate a point, but if you aren’t much of an artist (and most of us aren’t) your drawings are likely to be inept, which is comedic gold.
Use the Vernacular
If you want your classroom to have space for humor, you want to avoid being overly formal. Try dropping a few (non-offensive) slang words into your lessons and see what happens. The students will probably laugh at your attempt at being cool, but that’s what you want.
Make Room for Raucousness
Students, particularly younger ones, don’t sit still well. Use that to your advantage. When you sense the classroom is getting a bit rambunctious, up the humor level and get everyone laughing and having fun. It will help dissipate the restlessness and make your students enjoy your class more.
Earn a Master’s in Education
Can earning an advanced education degree make you funny? Probably not. But when you earn an MS in Education (MSEd), you can gain insight into how to build a supportive learning community that motivates and engages students. The more you know about teaching and managing a classroom, the better you can effectively use humor to help students learn.
If you’re already teaching and don’t want to take time off from your career to earn your master’s degree in education, you should take a look at online learning. When you earn a master’s degree in education online, you can keep working full time. That’s because, at an online university, you don’t have to take classes on a campus. Instead, you can complete the majority of your studies from home. Plus, an online master’s in education program lets you learn on a flexible schedule, giving you the power to focus on your MSEd degree at the time of day most convenient for you.
Humor is just one of the many ways to engage a classroom and help students learn. Thanks to online education, you can earn a master’s in education and develop the skills you need to be the most effective teacher you can be.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Education degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*Z. Stambor, How Laughing Leads to Learning, American Psychological Association, on the internet at www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/learning.aspx.
Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements. Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to www.WaldenU.edu/educlicensure.
Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or www.alsde.edu to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.
Note to all Washington residents: This program is not intended to lead to teacher certification. Teachers are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.