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Teachers should give themselves permission to laugh.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Oct 8, 2011 8:46:00 AM

teachers can use humor in classroom for positive learning environmentHappy October. You’ve made it through at least a month of school. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, all holidays involving too much sugar, are just around the corner. This is a great time to remember to laugh. Humor can be an effective component of classroom management.

Teachers need to laugh. And laugh a lot. It’s more important than ever, as more constraints and conditions are being placed on the profession. A brand new study from Oxford University shows that pain tolerance is much higher after a good endorphin-releasing belly laugh. Several books have been written about humor in the classroom—and researchers are studying its impact on students.  

The author of “All Joking Aside: Five Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom,” Michael E. Skinner, says “Students learn and retain more when humor is used... students exposed to lectures with humor outperformed their peers who were taught the same material without humor.”* Skinner’s findings are based on research at the college level, but why can’t it apply to younger students? Isn’t it just common sense that children will relax, and therefore arguably gain more from a lesson when the atmosphere is light and breezy?

When you consider the research from Vanderbilt University that shows you can actually burn 10-40 calories per day if you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes, well… that’s all the incentive anyone needs to laugh it up. Live Strong regularly gives us all kinds of wellness tips, of which laughter is a big part.

There was a time when teachers prided themselves on never losing “control” of their classrooms, and never, ever smiling before Christmas. They were trained to rule with a firm hand. To many students, teachers were the sound that all adults made on the “Charlie Brown” TV specials. But gone are the days when glowering teachers were the norm. Educationally Impolite, a group of teacher/performers, knows that humor opens hearts and minds.

Today, a third grade teacher in Michigan routinely takes a few moments after lunch to ask a student to relay a funny story to “get the giggles out” so the class can focus on the business of learning. As the year goes on, students discern what kinds of stories and jokes are appropriate or inappropriate to share.

Boy’s Life magazine continues to do a great job of offering grade-level jokes in each issue.

Last week, TeachHub posted the Top 12 Favorite TV Teachers. Admittedly, we can’t all be as charismatic and loved as the Miss Crabtrees and Gabe Kotters of television. But teachers can at least try to inject humor whenever they can, to connect with a student, to make a point, or to relieve tension before a tough test. It works.

So, go ahead…start releasing those wonderful endorphins in the classroom. Why not? It may even help boost your students’ academic performance.

For more fun ideas on how to manage your classroom effectively, download the free Guide to Classroom Management below, now!

*Skinner, M. E., and Fowler, R. E. (2010). All Joking Aside: Five Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom. Education Digest, 76(2), 19-21.


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Tags: humor in the classroom, impact on students, Michael Skinner, famous TV teachers, age appropriate jokes, laughter, improving academic performance, classroom management, teachers

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