JANUARY IS A PERFECT TIME TO INSERT A STRONG DOSE of humor into your group time gatherings. At this time of year, group time can move into a slump. Perhaps it's because the holidays are over or the weather is changing. But often it's because children have tired of the predictable pattern of group meetings and need some change.

Humor-filled group time activities can be your best secret remedy. Not only will children become more interested in the group time meetings (and therefore listen and participate more) but they will also be using important brain building skills. We know that humor is an important part of healthy brain development. Laughter actually affects the balance of chemicals in the brain and releases serotonin, a chemical that regulates stress levels and the mind's ability to process and learn new information. So, get ready to be silly and try on some of these fun ways to let humor "shine" in your classroom.

Dress up!

Nonchalantly showing up at group time wearing a funny hat, silly glasses, or your jacket on backwards will get your group laughing-and paying attention. Children will probably try to tell you what is wrong, but you can pretend to be unaware of the "silly something," so they'll have to verbalize what they see! Wear something upside down, or hold a book over your head to read it. Children will delight in the silliness and in telling you the RIGHT way. You can create a variation for this idea by inviting a parent or other adult to dress up in a silly costume, walk through group time and out the door as you pretend not to notice! After the person has left, ask children to describe what they saw. This type of unusual and humorous event invites the brain to pay attention.

"With a Ha-Ha Here"

Old MacDonald may have had a farm, but your class can have a great laugh with this song-invention activity. Ask children if they remember how to sing the song "Old MacDonald" and sing a verse or two together. Then ask, "What would be something funny for us to have here in our own classroom?" Children might suggest unusual animals or just silly things. Then, share the tune below with children, allowing them to fill in the blanks with their silly suggestions.

Kindergarten Has a Laugh (Tune: Old MacDonald)

Kindergarten has a laugh

Ei Ei Oh

And in this class we have a (children suggest a funny animal or object)

Ei Et Oh

With a Ha-Ha Here and a Ha-Ha there

Here a Ha

There a Ha

Everywhere a Ha-Ha

Kindergarten has a laugh

Ei Ei Oh!

Other examples of silly song inventions can include new lyrics to familiar songs such as The Bear Went Out the Window (what did he see?); She'll Be Comin' Round the Playground; Five Little Bananas Jumping in a Tree; and If you're Silly and You Know It!

"Joke and Tell"

Often, the first stage in developing joke-telling skills is imitating the sequence of a riddle or knock-knock joke. Young children frequently don't understand why it is funny, but they love the process! Periodically you can replace "Show and Tell" with "Joke and Tell" by giving children "homework" that involves bringing in a joke to share at group time!

Say a Tongue Twister

Alliterative call-and-response poems are perfect for creating a giggle and a funny feeling in your mouth. In addition, these poems are a great way to teach letters and phonemic awareness. As you enjoy these poems, the teacher says the first line and the children say the alliterative line for a chorus of silly-sounding fun.

Kim's Kissing Kittens*

What's more fun than a fish or a pooch?

Kim's kissing kittens '

They'll sneak up on you and give a smooch!

Kim's kissing kittens

You'll soon wear a smile when they tickle your face.

Kim's kissing kittens

They'd make any home a happy place!

Kim's kissing kittens

* From ABC Poem of the Week by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic Inc.)

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I Of course, sometimes your group time can be humorous without even trying. Young children have a knack for saying the funniest things or finding the simplest things funny. When one kindergarten teacher shaved off his mustache, the children kept trying to figure out what was different about him. Finally, one child said, "Ah ha! You brushed your teeth!"

Humor brings us all together. A shared laugh can be almost as good as a group hug. As Mark Twain once said, "The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."

Humor All Around the Room

Try humorously surprising the children by having an "Upside Down and Backwards Day." How would children react if they came to school and found many of their familiar materials upside down? In the art area, attach drawing paper under the table and invite children to work upside down. Have your closing group time first and work backwards through the day! You are bound to get some giggles all day long.