A Note to Teachers, Librarians and Parents *
Humour has a very important role to play in the classroom. It can heighten studentsí enjoyment of learning, making knowledge attainment much easier. Humour can create an open classroom environment, boost morale and creativity, aid in the retention of subject matter and provide students with a means of sharing things that may be troubling them.
Humour can be just as beneficial at home. It can help children (and adults) cope with their troubles, give perspective and relieve stress and tension.
So, letís get started. Itís time to tickle some funny bones!
Here are a few ideas on how to inject a little humour into the classroom, play group or home.
For the Very Young
Infants can enjoy the age-old game of peek-a-boo; hearing strange sounds and seeing funny faces.
Preschoolers will appreciate nonsense rhymes, simple tongue-twisters, silly songs, cartoons and comical drawings.
Children will have a "wild" time creating funny animal combinations: an elephant head on flamingo legs, a giraffe with zebra stripes, a crocodile with butterfly wings. Pictures can be either drawn or cut and pasted from magazines. The more ridiculous the combination the better!
Play a memory game. Seat children in a circle and have each take a turn at making a different animal sound. If they are very young, just remembering their own sound when it comes back to their turn is enough. For slightly older children, they can try to repeat each animal sound, in order, as the list grows and grows. Lots of laughs, at the different sounds, are sure to follow.
Children can make their own funny puppets. Using an old sock as a base, a simple puppet can be constructed by gluing on pre-cut animal or human eyes, noses and mouths. Googly eyes, synthetic fur, pieces of wool, or any available material or paper scraps can also be used. Once their puppets are completed, children can perform puppet shows for each other or for their parents.
For the Young
Some jokes are puns, others are facetious or jocular. Some use a set-up technique or a punch line. After discussing the different types of jokes, give examples of each. Discuss what makes a joke funny: the incongruity, the unexpected, etc.
Hold a discussion on the double-sidedness of jokes. They can bond people or push them apart, they can heal or destroy, they can promote love or hate. Give examples of each, and have students come up with some of their own.
Start the day off on a positive note. Greet children each day with a different joke written on the blackboard. Children will soon look forward to coming in each morning to read the "Joke of the Day".
Create a Humour Library
Assign a part of a wall, shelf, or even a box to be a humour library. Have students collect things that make them smile or laugh. Clip cartoons, pictures, or photos for the library. Have children create funny drawings, bring in books, toys and games that amuse them. Humour is everywhere. Ask children to find examples of humour in as many different places as possible (magazines, newspapers, bubble-gum cartoons, comics, advertising, etc.). When someone needs a giggle, send them over to the library for a quick lift.
Maintain a Humour Journal
Help children become more aware of the humour in their lives! Students can decorate the cover of a notebook with humorous clippings or drawings, and then record at least one humorous thing each day in their humour journal. It could be something that happened to them or someone they know, a joke they heard, a funny thought, etc. Illustrations can enhance each dayís page.
Make a Joke Book
Have each child write an original joke and create an accompanying illustration. Gather them together to create a book. Decide on a title for the collection and design a cover together. Make a copy for each student.
Create a group story. Start off the story and have each child take turns adding a sentence to it, trying to make it as funny as possible. For example, you could start with "Walking down the street last night, I looked up and saw... " or "Last night I was so tired that ...." As you take turns adding to the story, the group will create an original and hilarious tale.
Find some books of limericks at the library. Read several limericks to your students, then get them to try to write their own. Later they can share theirs with the rest of class.
Have the children learn and sing silly songs.
Funny Memory Bank
Children who have funny memories can draw on them to lighten dark or stressful moments. Have children create a funny memory for themselves. It could be a person they know that did something amusing, a place where something funny happened or something silly that happened to them. Whenever they need a break from reality, get them to close their eyes and relive their funny memory.
How many words related to humour can you think of? Children can try this exercise separately or as a group. Hereís a list to get you started:
Humour as a Profession
Take a look at the different professions linked to humour, both now and in the past: comedians, clowns, jesters, cartoonists, actors, authors and illustrators. If possible arrange for a class visit from some of these people to discuss humour from their perspective and to talk about what itís like to make people laugh for a living.
For Older Kids
Humour comes in many different styles, forms and types. After giving students examples of each, ask them to try to come up with some examples of their own.
Styles - irony, oxymoron, pleonasm, tautology and aphorism.
Forms - the one-liner, the punch line, impressions, the practical joke, and the pun.
Types - wit, satire, sarcasm, irony, farce, slapstick and buffoonery, parody and burlesque, and mimicry.
The Serious Side of Humour
A discussion of harmful humour will create an awareness of humour that should be avoided:
Hold a discussion concerning in what situations humour might be appropriate or inappropriate.
Creating a word or phrase by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase can be difficult enough. But how about the added challenge of making it funny at the same time? Here are a few examples:
Dormitory dirty room
snooze alarms Alas! No more Zís
slot machines cash lost in íem
Creating an animation short makes a wonderful class project. Everyone can have a role to play: script writers, props manager, animation artists, actors to create the voices, music directors to select the musical score, set designers and builders, camera operators, a director, etc.
Stand-up Comedy Analysis
Videotape a segment by a stand-up comedian and play it for the class. Have students dissect and analyze the performance. What type of humour was used? Was it funny? Did the comedian use body language to make the jokes funnier? Were props used? Sight gags?