April Fools' Day: A Foolproof Primer on Classroom Laughter
- Grades: PreK–K
Happy April Fools' Day, everyone! Since today celebrates the spirit of fun, I thought I'd talk about the importance of humor and laughter in the classroom, how to utilize it, and why you don't have any excuses not to. Also, take a look at my students, caught on candid camera.
Laughter is infectious. Get just one or two people laughing, and it won't be long before everyone joins in on the joy. After all, laughter is a universal language — everyone likes to laugh. And that right there is a reason to include it in your classroom.
Never mind the excuses. I've heard them all before:
- I'm not funny.
- That's not my style.
- It's not professional.
- It's not statistically sound.
- That's not what school is for.
- It won't be on any tests.
- I don't have time for/can't afford nonsense.
- Parents might be mad.
- It will make them wild.
- I want them to be as miserable in school as I was.
Let's take a look at those excuses one by one.
1. "I'm not funny." Trust me, you don't have to be a comedian to bring laughter to the classroom. It's not a comedy show. You don't even have to try to be funny; just try to have fun. Don't be ready with a joke; be ready with a laugh. Be playful, and encourage their playfulness. Kindergartners will laugh at almost anything. I promise that no matter what you do, if you do it in the spirit of fun, your students will think you're funny.
2. "That's not my style." While openness, creativity, gestures, animated expressions, and the ability to see the potential for fun all contribute to humor and laughter in the classroom, you don't have to fit a personality type. The only real requirement is to show that laughter is welcome in your classroom, even if the humor doesn't come from you. Most of the time, the kids themselves will provide the humor. Don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable. It isn't necessary.
3. "It's not professional." A teacher's job is to inspire, uplift, motivate, ignite passion and creativity, make learning fun, and build self-confidence. If these are the effects of laughter in your classroom, you're doing your job. If you're doing your job, you're being professional.
4. "It's not statistically sound." Numbers aren't important; results are. If laughter is having a positive effect on your class, that's all the proof you need. Don't base your actions on somebody else's statistics!
5. "That's not what school is for." School is for learning, and kids simply do not learn when they're uninterested and unmotivated. Humor breaks up routine, alleviates boredom, attracts attention, and increases enjoyment, which motivates students to do what you ask of them. Students are more likely to listen, work, and behave — and therefore learn — if they like school and they like you. Humor also shows that it's okay to take risks and make mistakes, and that is a large and important part of education.
6. "It won't be on any tests." If you teach only to the test, you're depriving your students. Almost everything kids need in life won't be on any tests. Eating won't be on any tests, but there's still lunch time. Breathing won't be on any tests, but it's still allowed. Laughter can be just as necessary. Did you know that when you laugh, you take in more oxygen, lower your blood pressure, enhance your immune system, and release natural pain relievers?
7. "I don't have time for/can't afford nonsense." Do you have time for conflict? Can you afford stress? Laughter in the classroom is a wonderful tool for conflict and stress management. When you laugh, you relax and experience an internal massage. Laughter feels good. It lifts spirits, releases tension, reduces anxiety, soothes irritability, acts as a coping mechanism, enhances self-esteem, mends wounds, and heals hurt feelings. I wouldn't call that nonsense.
8. "Parents might be mad." I assume you think they would be mad for one of two reasons: either because they might think no learning is going on, or because they might think you're using inappropriate humor. Explain to parents the importance of laughter in the classroom and at home. Explain that when their children laugh and have a good time with their classmates and friends, they feel a sense of belonging. Laughter builds bridges, allowing students to communicate, cooperate, and make connections with one another. Reassure parents that you will never use tasteless humor, put-down humor, or private humor that leaves children out. And don't forget to show parents the actual output of the work their children are doing.
9. "It will make them wild." Remember how, at the beginning of the school year, you had to point out the difference between good and bad behavior? You did that in the interest of good classroom management, to teach your students the consequences of their behavior choices. Humor and laughter is no different than any other classroom situation. Your students have a choice about how to behave. You, too, have a choice: you can choose not to do anything that will remotely get your students excited (which with kindergartners is almost everything) or you can choose to impose consequences when they get out of control. But first give them the opportunity to make a different choice. Tell them, "You're showing me that you can't handle having fun. If you don't settle down, we will have to be more serious."
10. "I want them to be as miserable in school as I was." Let the past go. Be the teacher you always wished you had. True, it's not quite fair that your students have it easy while you had it rough. But don't let past bad teachers control your whole career: don't stoop to their level and adopt the qualities you hated in them. I doubt that's why you became a teacher in the first place, and if it is, you're in the wrong profession. Teaching is meant to be affirming, inclusive, and humanizing — NOT cynical, exclusive, dehumanizing, hurtful, or degrading. Just because you were treated that way doesn't make it right.
The three most important points stated above are:
- Try to have fun.
- Be ready to laugh.
- Show that laughter is welcome.
Just lighten up, don't take things too seriously, and be ready for any humorous situation that might arise. Most funny classroom moments are spontaneous. You don't have to plan anything, unless you want to make it part of your lesson. So with all that said, how do you incorporate laughter in the classroom?
If you want to do a little planning, but still want the humor to be natural, take a page from my book:
Smile . . . You're on Candid Camera!
In order for humor to be effective in your classroom, it must be allowed on an ongoing basis. So make time for it every day!
Have a foolish weekend!