General Science and Teaching

Humor in the classroom

I find myself to be a bit of a jokester, but I won't toot my own horn in how good I am - which isn't that good...way too cheesy.

But I'm curious as to how much humor I can use when teaching, and in turn, how much joking about can I allow my students to partake in before it gets too out of hand.  I know it's apparent that any jest sent Towards another individual is strictly prohibited, but a general comedic atmosphere is always a nice learning environment, in my opinion.  But what is the general populaces opinion on the subject?

Travus Houghton
Travus Houghton
358 Activity Points

I, too, am a jokester and liked to have fun with my students.  A large part of this I can attribute to teachers I had who were funny and made their courses enjoyable.  You are right, never descend into teasing - I went too far early in my career and a teary-eyed boy came up to me after class  to tell me that I had hurt him by repeatedly referring to a funny incident involving him.  While I thought it was jovial it obviously was not in his eyes.  

There is, as you alluded to, a line that you must stop students (and yourself).  Put downs should never be permitted, even in jest.  Some students may mistake joke-telling with dirty joke-telling, so clamp down on that immediately.  While almost all students know that racist jokes should never be uttered, I worry that sexism can be overlooked as banter.  Stomp on teasing, even among close friends, to avoid people getting hurt in your classroom.  Even among close friends, an innocuous tease may be picked up by someone outside their circle and repeated.

Also be aware that some students may goad you into joke-telling or fun conversations to sidetrack you from your teaching.  It can be hard to resist so be watchful for this tactic.  I resorted to Joke-of-the-Week on Fridays: I had a list of science-related jokes that I would pick from for a quick laugh at the end of the week usually at the end of the class.  I enjoyed sending the students off for the weekend with a 'groaner'!  





Gabe Kraljevic
Gabe Kraljevic
4084 Activity Points

In my limited time as a teacher, I try to keep days light and jovial for my students. I stay away from any teasing and try to make sure that I'm not hurting anyone's feelings when I want to be silly. I also don't want to encourage the students to pick on each other or tell mean jokes that would get them, or others, in to trouble.

Like Gabe said, I enjoy have those fun conversations with students and I really enjoy his "Joke of the Week" idea! That way, the students have something to look forward to and know that you can leave them for the weekend with some silly (and even bad) jokes!

Christopher Ernstes
Christopher Ernstes
120 Activity Points

I used puzzle/riddle algebra worksheets that have corny jokes as the answer.  A lot of times the answer is a play on words.  Not all the students find them funny, but they know by now if the riddle's answer does not make sense, they calculated a probelm incorrectly and will self-correct their worksheet.  (Personally, I like the corny jokes.)

Check out this website for algebra worksheets with riddles:

Stephanie Gomez
Stephanie Gomez
390 Activity Points

I am currently an early childhood pre-service teacher and I too find an eagerness to provide a comedic atmosphere in my future classroom. It is true, however, that joking around can cause the students to lose focus of the task at hand. I think the best way to implement humor is through the lesson. For example, if the kids are learning about animals, it would be fun and make the kids laugh to act out the noises and movements of whatever animal the class is discussing. Getting the students to laugh is a goal of mine, and it will keep them smiling, and engaged in the lesson. Being relaxed and able to laugh a little is SO important, they are kids after all!

Katie Casablanca
Katie Casablanca
33 Activity Points

I use puns frequently but not sure how those work with early childhood students. Animal humor can include cartoons-for food web, Yogi bear comes to mind; for forces and motion, Wiley coyote and roadrunner. I also use science puns extensively--clever ways to reinforce concepts. As in, " I would have given you flowers but I didn't botany."  Yes, I think these are funny. Students roll their eyes, but I have former students who still send me Mole and Pi day jokes on those days or weeks! Always, a few with May 4th be with you also.

Another way is to laugh at your own mistakes-writing numbers or words incorrectly, but without putting yourself down. Your attitude is a major factor in student learning so if you see the cup full all of the time, that will give your classroom climate positive.


Bev DeVore-Wedding
Bev Bev DeVore-Wedding
5058 Activity Points

These comments are making me smile! Having a relaxed atmosphere in class is a good thing, and if this is the norm for a class, then humor will be part of the learning process, not a distraction. That said, students need to learn the difference between good-natured humor and mean-spirited put-downs and teasing. Teachers can be good models of using humor positively, as Bev described.

I know teachers who claim that their style is to use sarcasm, and that students like this. Personally, even as an adult, I still am not quite sure when someone is sincere or being sarcastic! While others are laughing, think of the ones who are not. What a teacher may think is witty can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Think of a younger student, one who is learning English, or a student who is belittled constantly at home. A sarcastic put-down can be devastating for a student, however well-intentioned the teacher or fellow student may be. -- Mary B

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
10070 Activity Points

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