Laughing and Learning in the Classroom

November 8, 2018

Did you know that the American Psychological Association found that laughter leads to learning? I bet you're not surprised. We all know that laughter lightens the mood, it brings pleasure, and it connects us to others. However, according to Zak Stambor, laughter can even help our students learn. That's because laughter has been found to increase students' participation in class and heighten students' ability to pay attention. If you've been in a classroom with laughing kids, you know that there's nothing better!

Here are some easy ways to get students laughing AND learning in the classroom!

FUNNY VOICESLet's face it, silly voices are so much fun! Here are some super easy ways to get students laughing with silly voices:

--- Have students read out loud with a partner or a small group in a silly voice. I love to have students pick different voice challenges out of a basket or bag. After they pick a voice challenge, they have to read to their partner in that voice. I promise, even your most reluctant reader will get reading and laughing!

Great news! You can find a set of 24 silly reading tasks in the Laughter and Learning Exclusive Freebie. 

Just add your info. below and check your email inbox!

    --- Read a passage from a text as a class, in unison, in a silly voice. This is especially effective during the second reading of a passage. Read the passage in "normal" voices first, then have everyone read as if they're underwater or whispering or even like a pirate. 

    --- If you read books out loud to students, you might want to experiment with some funny voices for characters. You'll get students cracking up and following along!

    FUNNY STORIES - Sharing, writing, and reading funny stories is a wonderful way to bring laughter into the classroom. Here are a few ideas:

    --- Have students write their own funny stories. You can do so with an entire writing unit like this Descriptive Writing Unit where students make up funny stories (along with research) about a wild pet. Or, you can get students laughing with Creative Writing Lessons. One of my favorites is the Write and Pass Story. This activity is super easy and very funny! All you have to do is assemble small groups of students. Give them each a piece of paper. Have them each begin a story. 

    Then, after a couple of minutes, have them fold their paper to hide the majority of what they've written. Next, they need to pass it along to someone in their group who will pick up the story where their classmate left off. 

    This process of writing and passing continues until the story ends. Then, students get a chance to read the jumbled stories. They'll be laughing for sure!

    You can find all the materials you'll need for Write and Pass Stories in this FREE Laughter and Learning Resource. Just sign up below and check your email inbox!

      --- Tell students funny stories about your own life. Bonus points if you can connect the stories to their learning!

      --- Read funny pieces of literature! There are some funny short stories in Guys Write for Guys Read, and kids love the humor in the classic story, The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry. Oh, and if you'd like to get kids cracking up during a read aloud, try Crash by Jerry Spinelli. Poetry can be funny, too! Some of my favorite funny poems are in this blog post.

      FUNNY TASKS - Sometimes the easiest way to get students laughing is to add a funny twist to an otherwise ordinary task. Here are my favorite ways to make traditional tasks a little funnier!

      --- Homework Twists - Let's face it, homework could use a little humor. An easy way to get students cracking up while doing their homework is with homework twists. I love to staple Homework Twist Task Cards to the top of students' paper. 

      Or, you could roll a paper homework cube that challenges students to complete their work in usual and funny ways. Don't worry, I've included the Homework Cube in the Laughter and Learning Freebie!

        --- Test Questions - The next time you're writing a test, why not include some funny phrases or situations? You might fill a comma quiz with sentences all about a befuddled zookeeper or write passages for reading comprehension about the misadventures of a mad scientist. The idea is to sprinkle some humor into an otherwise humorless task!

        --- New Positions - Often, you can get students laughing by challenging them to do their work in strange and unusual positions. Instead of doing their daily warm-ups on top of their desks, why not have them complete them on top of their heads or behind their backs? You'll get students giggling as they try to complete the task and laughing out loud when they see what their work looks like! 

        My students loved these challenges so much that I made a paper cube that we could roll to determine silly ways for students to do their work! If you'd like, I'll send you a free copy, just add your info. below.

          FUNNY GAMES - Games are a great way to get students cracking up while they are actively involved in their learning. Here are a few of my favorites:

          --- Carpool - This game is inspired by the popular Improvisational Theatre Game, "Hitchiker." I altered it slightly to use in the classroom. It's a great game to practice inferencing skills, vocabulary, and character analysis. Students LOVE this game! 

          Here's how it works. Bring four chairs to the front of the classroom. Set them up like a car with two seats in front of the other two seats. Point out the driver's seat and passenger seats to students. Explain that the game will start with 3 students in the "car." They'll need to have a conversation for about 20 seconds until they pick up another student who is carpooling with them. Before this student gets in the car, you will need to give him/her a personality trait or vocabulary word. For instance, if you are studying "A Christmas Carol," you might give him the words miser, generosity, solitude, or specter. He will be responsible for acting in a way that the other passengers can guess the word or trait he is acting out. So, if he was given the word "generosity," he might offer the passengers his shoes or volunteer to drive or suggest going to a drive-thru so he can buy them lunch. The idea is that the new passenger will continue acting until the others catch on. Then, the other passengers should start behaving in the same way. Once everyone is acting incredibly generously, the game ends. Bring new students into the car and invite another student with a new trait to be the carpool-er. 

          This game is a super funny way to help students master character traits and/or vocabulary! After you play it once, and get the entire class laughing out loud, be prepared to play it many more times! It's a hit!

          --- Listen Up - This quick game combines listening skills and jokes to get students giggling. I've included it in a popular Listening Comprehension Unit. To prepare, find a joke or two that you think students might like. Then, "hide" the punchlines in a very different sentence. For instance:

          Joke: When do astronauts eat?
          Punchline: At launch time!
          Hidden Punchline: Ratlaugh on chairs with tiny mice.

          Create a set of instructions to help students eliminate the other letters in the hidden punchline phrase. For instance, "Cross out the first and last letters in the word 'rats.'" Then, to play the game, tell the joke to students. Have students write the hidden answer phrase on their papers. Explain that they will have to listen to and follow the directions that you read out loud to discover the punchline. Give students the directions one at a time until they reveal the punchline. This game is a funny way to practice listening skills!

          To save you time, I've put together a set of "Listen Up" activities in this exclusive FREEBIE. 

            I hope you've found a few ideas to make your classroom a little funnier! 

            Thanks so much for stopping by,

            Mary Beth

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