I was a funny guest speaker for a teachers' conference last week where we explored how teachers can use humor in the classroom.
Humor has a unique way of educating students, holding their attention, aiding in memory and enhancing the joy of learning, to make lesson plans fun.
To prepare to be speaker for the teachers conference, I interviewed 6 educators who reportedly use humor when they are speaking to students in the classroom. Some use props, funny stories and analogies, others exaggerated characters or elements of an illustration.
Another funny motivational speaker for the same conference recounted that he used to fall asleep in class, because it was so boring. The scary part is that he was the one delivering the lecture. If you put yourself to sleep with your own drab pep talk, than that's real a problem!
Studies indicate that student participation skyrockets when learning is fun. These days teachers have to compete with a myriad of distractions like text messaging, cell phones, social media and more; frankly, young people today are often being raised with the expectation of being entertained. Humor and laughter decrease tension, build rapport and put you in control at the front of the room.
Ideas to inject humor into your teaching:
- Props. One of the easiest ways to inject humor in teaching(especially if you are not a bona fide comedian) is to use funny, silly props to reinforce your point. If you are teaching chemistry, wear some huge safety glasses and a messed up hairstyle and suddenly you become the funny professor. Props like clown noses, clothing items, silly sticks, smile on a stick and more can spice up the learning environment
- Remember to personalize to the class. What a 45 year old teacher finds funny is not what a 5 year old will laugh at. Humor in teaching is personal so find appropriate humor for each age you teach.
- Make it physical. Young children find movement and dance very funny. Simply walking in circles around the room can send children into waves of laughter. Exaggerated gestures, tone of voice, physical games or movement generate a lot of humor, especially with children.
- Timing is important. A classroom is not a comedy cabaret, so use humor when it relates to and reinforces a message. Well timed humor will not be a distraction that takes you off your learning goals.
- Use humor to create a positive mental image and enhance memory. People remember the odd and unusual, so exaggeration is a great memory technique. If you want teenagers to remember to turn off their cell phone before class, you could create a funny rhymn, myth, or caricature that sits prominently at the front of the room. A technique i use when I am speaking for a business group is that when someone's phone goes off, I take the phone from them and speak to the person on the other end of the line, often resulting in peels of laughter. In a similar vein, you could have a student come to the front of the room and do a silly dance. Funny, slightly embarrassing things can be a great motivator and memory reinforcer.
Less than 20% of what we laugh at is anything joke like. If you are not humorously inclined, the techniques above are easy ways to encourage comedy to aid in learning.
More Humor in the workplace ideas can be found here