5 Ways To Bring Humor Into Your English Classroom

E.E Cummings said, “The most wasted of all the days is one without laughter,” and I think the same is true for a day in the classroom.  Even if we aren’t a natural stand-up comedian, bringing content related humor into your ELA class (or any class for that matter) will not only make for a more positive learning environment, but will also help your students retain the content you are teaching.  By doing these 5 simple things, you won’t only bring a smile to your students’ faces, but you will also help them feel more comfortable in your classroom to engage which will allow them to more easily connect with content and skills.

Put a smile on your students’ faces when they enter by having some humorous decorations on your classroom bulletin boards.  With a quick search online, you can find funny author memes or quotes, grammar jokes, or ironic moments to display on a board each week.  Having relevant humorous material in the classroom will put your students at ease and make the classroom a more welcoming environment.  One of my favorite ELA displays that gets students attention is my “English Is Weird” poster set because it allows students to consider strange, surprising, and odd details about the English Language. 

Bring some performance into your middle and high school ELA class with Readers Theater.  If you are reading a short story, a play, or even a few chapters out of a novel, assign roles to a few of your students and have them do a dramatic presentation of the text.  All it takes are a few basic prompts and costumes, and you will be surprised at how the energy in your room changes.  I would often raid the costume room of the drama teacher for items/costumes or scrounge a few items from home.  Don’t feel like searching?  You could also assign roles to students the day before and tell them to bring in their own costume. When teaching a drama unit, I keep a costume section in my classroom, so I can easily have access to materials I might need for performance (see my Shakespeare inspired costumes below). 
One of my favorite short stories to do Readers Theater with is Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl.  While it is certainly uses dark humor, the frozen leg of lamb scene always gets students giggling, and they typically do better on questions or assessments related to this story because they more easily retain the discussions we had during the performance. Below are some of the props I use for this story.  Finding a fake lamb leg is nearly impossible, so I made one with a brown paper bag :).
If you want to instill a love of reading in your students, present them with texts that have an element of humor, irony, sarcasm, or surprise.  If you are teaching short stories, try a story like Charles by Shirley Jackson, a story with a surprise twist about a boy misbehaving at school or The Chaser by John Collier, a story about a love-potion gone wrong.  Bring satire into your upper high-school grades by having students read Body Ritual Among The Nacirema by Horace Miner, a paper on a little-known tribe living in North America with curious practices and customs (which actually describes the modern-day American – Nacirema spelled backwards).  If you are looking for some humorous poetry, you might want to check out “Did I Miss Anything?” by Tom Wayman, “Television” by Roald Dahl, or “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert William Service.

If you are teaching grammar, integrate real-life, funny spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors that relate into your instruction.  You can do this by adding a “commercial” slide into your presentation that includes a funny misuse of that grammar concept or some funny examples at the bottom of an assignment or worksheet.   Sadly, you will have absolutely no problem finding real-life examples.  A quick Google/Pinterest search will yield thousands of examples of grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors on tattoos, signs, cakes, social media posts, and the list goes on.  You could also dedicate a bulletin board in your classroom to grammar fails and have students find their own examples to post.

As much as they won’t admit it, teenagers get a kick out of their English teacher using groan-worthy wordplay.  Bringing puns into your classroom is an easy way to get a student laugh, or at the very least an eye-roll and a smirk.  It will also allow them to consider the nuances of the language and hopefully encourage them to share their own puns. Get your copy of this free poster set with food-related puns that give students some valuable or “sage” advice by clicking HERE. 

Here are some other easy ways to bring puns into the classroom: write a pun of the week on the board, give students an incentive or reward when they use wordplay in class appropriate to the content you are teaching (candy always works), or do a pun-related activity.  Click HERE to read a post on the blog by The SuperHERO Teacher that includes a free Decode The Pun activity.

I hope these ideas bring some laughs in your classroom and also help your students feel more comfortable and ready to learn.  Have other ideas to share?  Click the comment button at the bottom of the post and join the conversation.

Want even more ideas for bringing laughter into the ELA classroom?  Check out these activities and posts from other Secondary English Coffee Shop bloggers! 

Room 213 shares her thoughts on putting assessment aside and learning for the sheer enjoyment of it in her blog post: Learning Just For Fun?

Secondary Sara puts a fun medical twist on student skill development and goal-setting with her activities for curing “Procrastinitis” and other diseases.

Nouvelle ELA uses funny examples to help students learn how to analyze literary quotes - Literary Quote Analysis 
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