“Laughter is more than just a pleasurable activity…When people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.”
April Fool’s day is around the corner and it’s a great time to get your students laughing while learning. Laughter is healthy and gets us to relieve the stress of language learning. Many of these lessons deal with studying the language in jokes. Jokes are cultural. They play on words, take critical thinking skills to decipher, and enhance the classroom atmosphere. Many will make your students roll their eyes but they will still smile. Try a few of these ideas and let us know how much your students enjoyed them!
You can have students bring in jokes for any topic, grammar, or vocabulary you teach. Have them bring in jokes about food, with a phrasal verb, that play on a word, that include a gesture, are their favorites. Remember to have a discussion beforehand to keep it clean!
- Students memorize at least one of the jokes.
- Put students in pairs facing each other.
- Give them 30 seconds to a minute to tell their jokes.
- Blow the whistle. They must tell their jokes to different students.
- Create a checklist for them to carry around and check off every time they hear a joke:
- ✓Was it funny? ✓Did you get it? ✓Have you heard this joke before?
My Favorite Joke
Have students present their favorite jokes to the class then discuss where they first heard the joke, who told them the joke, and why they think the joke is so funny.
Corniest Joke Contest
One of the ways to get your students laughing is to have them tell corny jokes. Have them bring in at least 5 and host a contest for the one that gets the most eye rolls.
Jokes Across Cultures
Have a discussion with your students about various types of jokes.
Brainstorm on a cognitive map the different types of jokes they come up with such as knock, knock jokes, the chicken crossed the road joke, how many (profession) does it take to screw a lightbulb, etc. You can use a tool like Popplet to create a collaborative mindmap. Pair or group them and have them search for an example of each to include in the mindmap.
Poll your students to see if their countries share similar joke styles. My students in Germany had never heard of knock-knock jokes but they had heard of the how many does it take to screw a lightbulb joke.
Research a Joke
With a mindmapping tool like Popplet, students include the origins, history, vocabulary, grammar, of a joke. They present their joke research to the class.
Mobile Joke Telling: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
Put students in a circle. Tell them a few of the chicken crossed the road jokes. Then ask them to think of reasons why the chicken crossed the road. Using the audio recording feature of a cell phone, record the first student asking, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Student B gives a clever answer, then repeats, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Student C gives a clever answer and continues the cycle.
Cut jokes and their punchlines into strips. Distribute each slip to different students. You can have them grab the paper strips from a bag. The students with the joke search for the student with the matching punchline. Instruct them to read their jokes aloud each time they approach someone. When a pair finds each other have them work together to figure out the meaning. After everyone finds their partners, have them read the joke aloud to the class. Then have a class vote on the funniest joke, the corniest joke, and the most difficult joke to understand (and why).
Some Digital Tools and Ideas
Your student will love having their jokes told by colorful characters using the Voki speaking tool.
- With Babblerize your students can take a picture of an animal, pet, or object to tell their joke. It looks funny because a fake mouth is created.
- Your students can illustrate their jokes with 2 characters at GoAnimate. They can also create reactions to the joke, like the character laughing a lot or saying something like, “Argggghhhh!”
- If you’re using mobile devices, check out apps like Sock Puppets, Puppet Pals, and Toontastic.
A Laughing Diary
- Have students keep a small notebook with them.
- Instruct them to write down the details of every time they laugh.
- After a week have them share the details and have a discussion about what makes us laugh. The class can see if any similar incidences make them laugh.
- Do this with a class from another country and compare to see if upbringing or culture might influence the outcomes.
More Great Websites and Resources
Find more ideas and safe jokes to share with students using these websites:
- My Webinar and presentation: Teaching English with Jokes
- My bookmarks of Joke sites and lesson ideas
- Many Things- Jokes for English Language Learners
- Dumb Jokes That are Funny
- Lesson plan: Chicken Crossing by Lesson Stream
- Lesson plan: The Train Tunnel Joke by Lesson Stream
Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, author, and international speaker. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She has co-founded and organized the acclaimed educational projects, Edchat, the ELTON nominated ELTChat, The Reform Symposium E-Conference and the ELTON nominated Virtual Round Table language and technology conference. Visit her award winning blog, Teacher Reboot Camp, for resources for effective technology integration. Keep an eye out for her book, The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators published by Eye on Education. She has taught toddlers to adults English in various countries including the US, Germany, and Greece and currently travels around the world training teachers. Website: http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/ Twitter: @ShellTerrell