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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Focus on Collaboration to Kick Off New School Year

Blogger Suzie Boss shares steps for assisting secondary students with classroom collaboration.

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Welcome, Brave Middle School teachers! Introduce yourself...

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Hey, all you brave tween teachers out there! Welcome to the Edutopia discussion forum. Please introduce yourself a little before exploring our other discussions.
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Using Humor in the Classroom

Edutopia blogger Maurice Elias explains how laughter can reduce stress and offers a handful of teaching activities to lighten up the learning.
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Maurice Elias's picture
Maurice Elias
Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
Blogger

Fantastic Comments!

I want to thank you all for your wonderful comments. Your caveats and examples and tips are truly helpful. Like most other teaching approaches and tools, humor, too, must not be forced or artificial or overused. Yet I think we are now at the point where its role in basic pedagogy is better understood and appreciated. A classroom with levity can be no less serious or purposeful than another classroom, and intensity and pressure are not an inside track to learning and retention for most students in most situations.

Mike Raven's picture
Mike Raven
Former Head of Department (Science), Teacher, Brisbane, Qld., Aust

Just to add a couple of thoughts Maurice.

No question, humor is a great tool. But I would be careful not to have it come across as "forced humor" (or go across like a lead balloon) particularly by a teacher who is not initially comfortable with using humor. Otherwise the kids who are very perceptive might begin seeing you as the humor - and perhaps weakening your classroom management and control.

My advice. Start off slowly - create a warm and relaxed atmosphere and then increase the humor. If it is a little weak the kids will be more forgiving because they are comfortable and they "like" you.

I have found that humor does help build a great relationship with a class as long as they understand where the line is drawn (as you said in the article, no "put-downs" please). It really does help engagement and motivation. Also a student loyalty develops - and this rubs-off at home (making parent-teacher night easier !). If your lucky, you may receive a few more presents at Christmas - and have more students come and say goodbye to you at the end of Year 12 !

Some classes, however, might be much more difficult to control and so using humor (no matter how good) could result in you being perceived as an easy target. I'll leave it at that.

Ann Bailey, MS, LPC's picture
Ann Bailey, MS, LPC
Oregon School Counselor, Oregon Licensed Professional Counselor

I'm appalled at this comment:
"Ed tells of a group of individuals who are not so enamored of bringing humor into classrooms and schools: private practice therapists. "The more laughs our society loses, the more humorless our society becomes, and the more clients our society creates."

I can't think of any way this comment enhances, promotes respect or honors the relationships between the schools and community partners (local mental health agencies, child-family therapists, counselors, to name a few).

To imply that private practice therapists don't like the idea of humor in the classroom (where's the citation for this?) because it will mean fewer clients is a ludicrous, unprofessional and egregious assumption! Therapists not only encourage humor, friendship, health and spiritual wellness, they work with classroom teachers and other school staff to develop plans to help children thrive at school, home and in the community. I found this part of the article offensive, unfortunate and completely unnecessary.

Maurice Elias's picture
Maurice Elias
Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
Blogger

Anne, I understand your perspective fully. Perhaps his comment is much easier to laugh at when it is delivered in a room full of professional therapists, who typically share in the laughter because they recognize the underlying truth about how humor is being squeezed out of education and parenting because it does not seem productive. But I respectfully suggest you save your appall for what is truly egregious and recognize the humor in the comment. What is truly appalling is what is happening in our schools today, something that remains largely unaffected by the work of individual therapists, however well motivated and however much they employ humor. Preventing children from becoming unwilling casualties of humorless and unforgiving systems is something that should occupy much wider concern than it does. That said, to return to your comment specifically, context matters greatly in the way humor is interpreted. In fact, you have given yet another good reason for others' appropriate points that humor must be used carefully because, in any wide audience, different senses of humor may in fact be operating.

MrKekic's picture
MrKekic
Integrated science Teacher, Ohio

I think using humor can be one of the best tools a teacher can use. Starting a Lesson with a joke related to the topic is something that really captures the students attention. There are a ton of great school appropriate science jokes/memes for teachers to use, and if students find the humor in the joke you know they understand it. One example was when learning about blood types I told the students my typing was AB-normal and wrote it up on the board. After a few weeks of similar science jokes I've had students bringing them to class and sharing them, they even try to stump me every once in a while. I highly suggest using humor in a classroom!

amybrabenec's picture
amybrabenec
Kindergarten teacher from Paso Robles, California

Our school teaches the 16 Habits of Mind all year long, giving focus to each at different times. Last week we focused on finding humor. At our shared start as a whole school, our principal started by telling a joke and then introducing the habit. We taught students how humor works in the brain and that it makes you smarter because you think twice. We made a hand motion symbol for finding humor with our thumbs tucked into the palms of our hand (limbic system), wrapped our fingers over the thumbs (cortex), and then smiled. Now when we make those motions we are reminded to find humor. In Kindergarten we read funny books, sang "Down by the Bay", and wrote about silly things. We planted Cheerios that "grew" into donuts on April Fool's Day. We served our principal "brownies" (letter e's cut out of brown paper).

We are a young school in our 2nd year of existence, if we didn't find humor in the hard work it takes to build a team and a school, we would be miserable. Laughter really is the best medicine!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program
Facilitator

I think it's so important that we teach our students no matter what age they may be (I teach teachers, for instance) that it's possible to take our work seriously without taking ourselves too seriously. I've started inserting appropriate images and Gifs in my online course responses and in the materials I use during facilitation and I'm amazed at how it helps to build community. When we laugh, we relax and I think there's some measure of connection between a relaxed brain and a brain that can learn. (We all know that a frightened brain CAN'T learn, doesn't it stand to reason that the inverse might be true as well?)

Lessia Bonn's picture
Lessia Bonn
co-founder I am Bullyproof Music
Blogger

We have a song called "Scary Guy" that teaches kids that bullies are just bores. We have a song called "Whatever" that helps kids feel better, lightens things up. I always lead with humor when counseling kids of all ages because it opens them up to new ways of looking at old problems, whether they be problems in social circles, at home with their families, or with math. It doesn't matter. The minute we take ourselves too seriously, we lose.

I am so happy to discover what you've written. I have a new classroom lesson writing partner. I have been telling her we should really do a lesson on humor-- seeing the bright side. There is so little respect for all that handed out when it's so darn important. This inspires me to get to work on a humor lesson with her and not just blah blah about it. Thank you!

Consider yourself pinned, tweeted, and appreciated :-)

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager
Staff

MrKekic, love that you used a Young Frankenstein joke. +10 points! :-)

Maurice Elias's picture
Maurice Elias
Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
Blogger

Thanks so much Lessia!!! You brought a smile to my face!-- Maurice

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Resources for Using iPads in Grades 6-8

Monica Burns
Looking for advice on integrating iPads in middle school classrooms? In this curated guide, we’ve compiled resources to help you find apps, learn about best practices, and explore ideas for engaging activities.

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Teacher Appreciation: Planning Resources for Parents

Related Tags: Parent Partnership
In preparation for National Teacher Appreciation Month in May, Edutopia has collected tips and ideas for parents looking for the right way to tell educators, “Thank you.”

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Editable Sample Rubric

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15+ Ways of Teaching Every Student to Code (Even Without a Computer)

Vicki Davis, a computer science teacher and IT integrator, shares this extensive list of year-round resources for teaching students how to code.

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Resources for Using iPads in Grades 3-5

Monica Burns
Looking for advice on integrating iPads in grades 3-5? In this curated guide, we've compiled resources to help you find apps, learn about best practices, and explore ideas for engaging activities.

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Sample Maker Rubric

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Resources for Using iPads in Grades K-2

Monica Burns
Looking for advice on integrating iPads in K-2 classrooms? In this curated guide, we've compiled resources to help you find apps, learn about best practices, and explore ideas for engaging activities.

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