Incorporating humor in your lesson

keep-calm-and-pretend-it-s-on-the-lesson-plan-66Of course, it was hard to leave the zone of serious writing (“Everything matters: Globalization and Education”) and start to write about flowers, kids and all that vanilla topics. Nevertheless, I managed to progress. My last post collected only one comment, highly disappointed, in tears, I decided to go to the “dark side”. Now you can surely put my piece of writing on the same shelf with “Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand?” (Tolkamp, Haskell, Langford, Roberts, & Morgan, 2010) and “Describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression using data from an electronic health record” (Hanauer, Ramakrishnan, & Seyfried, 2013) (I strongly recommend davidphilip to create a new category and call it “What makes people happy?”). I clearly understand, that from the moment I decided to publish this post I definitely killed myself in future as Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, but still hope to get at least a good grade by English.

I bet that you will read my post after such effective introduction. The secret is that humor works exactly the same way not only in a written text but in a classroom as well. My second post aims to explore the power of laughter, which effectively promotes students’ learning.

Jonah, 5th grade pupil refuses to read, write and do anything (Karschney, 2012). The team of two teachers starts to spend half of the day with him, teaching Jonah to read. Among a number of techniques used to engage student in a process of reading, Karschney mentions a positive impact of humor, which they incorporated to ruin the barriers of anxiety and fear of struggling student. The teachers started to laugh on themselves, inviting Jonah to do the same and see himself differently, from a different angle. At the same time, they created special literacy jokes understandable only for their students, they read funny books and laughed until they cried. And what was the result? Jonah started to read! The positive atmosphere, a new type of relationships between student and teacher, inspired him to perceive the ordinary activity in a different way.

There are a number of successful examples of humor incorporation; however, we as educators should remember some basic rules of using humor on the lesson. Lynda L. Ivy (2013) states that humor should be appropriate for age and grade level. The differentiation of age plays an important role in the understanding of humor. For instance, children younger than 12 may not understand such abstract ideas as irony and sarcasm. Jokes in a high school are different in a way that students of this age often project everything on themselves. The teacher should be careful in selecting humor; keeping in mind, that joke should not single out any student. At the same time, it is preferable for humor to correspond to the lesson’s content.  College or university professors may use humor to alleviate “hard” lessons, such as university-level math. Students in this group always expect professor to joke, which makes his work even easier.

Coupled with that, we have a huge arsenal of tools such as jokes, stories, cartoons, pictures and videos. They are easily accessible on the Internet; moreover, students themselves may be regarded as resource of funny content (Ivy, 2013). Finally, we should remember that there is a thin edge between misuse and overuse of humor. Use of humor in an appropriate way will make your lesson interesting and will shift your work to enjoyable activity.


Hanauer, D., Ramakrishnan, N., & Seyfried, L. (2013, August 1). Describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression using data from an electronic health record. PLoS ONE, 8(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070585

Ivy, L. (2013, February – March). Using humor in the classroom. The Journal of Adventist Education, 39-43.

Karschney, K. (2012, March). Inspiring a nonreader. Educational Leadership, 69(6).

Tolkamp, B., Haskell, M., Langford, F., Roberts, D., & Morgan, C. (2010, April). Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 124(1-2), 1–10.

4 thoughts on “Incorporating humor in your lesson

  1. I am not commenting to make you happier:)) Such a nice topic you have brought up. Teachers should definitely be with a sense of humor. Particularly teachers in our state schools, who are more likely to create tension rather than creating a friendly atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post on little-discussed topic. I know all good teachers try find ways to “connect” with their students on a personal level. In terms of motivation, trust and power, this personal connection is so important for a classroom to work. But you are right to point out that not all forms of humor are appropriate for different students at different ages.

    Are there other ways that teachers try to connect, other than making their students laugh? I know many school teachers (mostly women) who are very affectionate (hugging, etc) with their students, especially with younger grades. Male teachers can’t do this as much for fear of harassment complaints. Is this part of the same coin? Are men more likely to use humor and women more likely to use affection?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr.Montgomery you are right! I think that the type of relationships between children and female teacher is like the mother/child when the dad/child role does not imply physical contact. That is why it so important to develop your male sense of humor in order to not hug PhD students at university. I think that the one more way to connect is to be sincere, trait students like individuals, not the object to work on. One of my school teachers was loved by my class just because he was talking with us on different topics not directly connected to study.


  3. Well, you did good job on writing such topic. I agree with you that humor can helpful in a class. However, it should be mentioned that not every teacher can do that!;). Although, if they have the same kind of humor like you, it can work. Moreover, I would like to answer to Mr. Montgomery’s question. There are a variety of options except humor and hugging. For instance, activities in the form of games can be a way to go. And it is absolutely appropriate for both: and male, and female teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

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