It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. But did you know that it’s also one of the best teaching aids? Research has shown that humor plays an important role in activating different parts of a child’s brain, including those which process rewards and surprises. Children who develop a good sense of humor may become more capable of dealing with unexpected and stressful situations.
Mary Kay Morrison, author of Using Humor to Maximize Learning, says that the powerful positive feeling created by humor also promotes learning – because strong emotions build strong memories. According to Morrison, brain scans of children in learning environments demonstrate that “humor actually lights up more of the brain that many other functions in the classroom.”
And there’s another more obvious benefit to classroom comedy: it makes school fun. Humor turns boring, dry lessons into playful, educational activities and builds a sense of community. Children who enjoy themselves in class are going to be engaged and eager learners – which translates into an enjoyable environment for teachers, too!
What’s the best way to introduce humor into the classroom? Not every teacher can be a stand-up comedian – and in fact, researchers have suggested that when teachers attempt humor outside their comfort zone it can actually be detrimental. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with relying on the humor of others: use video clips, funny pictures or cartoons to supplement your lessons.
More tips for effective classroom comedy:
- Draw on your own experience. Insert your own jokes, experiences and anecdotes into lessons. Not only will this liven up your teaching, it’ll also help your students understand that you’re not a big scary alien – you’re human, like them.
- Turn humor into the subject of the lesson. Get students to talk about books, films or television shows they find funny. Ask them why they find these things humorous. Does the creator use humor to highlight certain issues? Does everyone find the same things funny? Why or why not?
- Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. If you do something silly, turn it into a joke. Show students that everyone makes mistakes, even the teacher – and sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to laugh!
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.