LOL Teacher! Using Humor to Enhance Student LearningPhoto on left: Creatas/Thinkstock, Photo on right: Ovidiu Iordachi/Hemera/Thinkstock

Laughing with students can help them connect on a deeper level with you and the learning. Try these four strategies to incorporate humor into your teaching.

One of our greatest challenges is getting our students focused and interested in our content. They arrive to classes preoccupied with their friends, stress, and other issues and events. We can use humor to engage students so that their brains digest the learning. Humor is a powerful instructional tool that helps ease the classroom atmosphere, relieves stress for both our learners and ourselves, and supports relationship building. However, we need to be mindful of how we use humor or we risk students feeling picked on, confused about our instructions, or perceiving that having fun is our main concern instead of learning. The following strategies will help you integrate humor into your curriculum effectively and avoid the pitfalls. For the best outcomes, adapt the strategies to match your sense of humor, wit, and comfort level.

Integrate humorous bits to boost engagement

Humor can spice up a lecture or give the brain a much-needed boost. In my college art history class, I still recall my professor’s slide presentation of the portrayal of males in various cultures. After showing us the famous David sculpture, we were surprised by a slide of David Hasselhoff in his “Baywatch” gear. My professor remarked, “How did that get in there?” The class laughed and continued taking notes. That small moment of humor broke up the monotony and gave our brains a break to refocus on the lecture.

Add quick moments of humor to your content delivery with comic strips, jokes, video clips, or funny news. The humor should highlight an aspect of the content, be age appropriate, and not alienate any student. These humorous bits can create a more comfortable atmosphere for learning the material and build rapport.

When teaching four- to six-year-olds in Germany, I struggled with getting them to perform and sing English songs with me because they were shy. I began showing them YouTube videos of The Wiggles performing the songs. The children would laugh and ask me to play the video multiple times. They would repeat the movements and sing the song while I played the video again.

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