Laughter as Essential Behavior for Learning

Pattie Sloan and Joan Flora: two teachers challenging classroom status quo.

imgresSpring Break is looming, but feels like a life time away.  Standing before the students,  every teacher wonders, “How do I engage them?” as we watch them slumped over,  books opened to the wrong page,  and  the glazed-over eyes say it all: “I’m here.  If I ignore you, Teach, maybe you will go away.” Maybe a little drool at the corner of the mouth  will appear, but wiping it away would take too much effort.     Passively nodding,  knitting their brows in feigned interest,  they look so bored, and  we know what they need;  a good belly laugh.

So let’s shake it up, and end this passivity and have some fun in our classrooms.  No one, not even the most passive student, can resist laughter.   Commonly referred to as the best medicine, teachers ignore it as we continue the long, arduous  march toward mastery.  Slashing through the jungle of new standards and Common Core, taking no prisoners on our journey, we forget to laugh.  The article, The Importance of  Laughter in the Classroom underscores what we often forget to celebrate, and laughter connects all participants in the classroom.   Students need that connection with us, and we need to own that we are pretty funny and our students are pretty funny.  So, let’s have some fun and laugh.  Because if we laugh, we will connect, relax, participate, and our student will continue to learn!

Cristal McGill, Ph.D. makes an excellent argument for humor in the classroom:

1.  Humor makes a group more interesting.

2.   Humor helps both students and facilitator enjoy a group more.

3.  Humor disarms.     

4. Humor motivates and energizes.    

5.  Humor gives students a ‘hook’ on which to trigger recall.

6.  Humor encourages creativity.  

7.  Humor helps students accept new ideas. 

8. Laughter helps build relationships.

9.  Humor provokes thought.

10. Laughter improves health, for both students and group leaders.

11.  Laughter feels good.

And now a word about the learning environment we did not create but must work within.  Consider the desk chairs your students sit in.  Bending us at the waist, constricting our diaphragms, this sitting position restricts oxygen to the brain.  If you think students could be brain-dead, you are probably right; and sitting in those desk chairs helped finish them off. To combat classroom fatigue, Hanoch McCarty, a motivational speaker for teachers encourages teachers to allow the students to stand and walk around, or he will have them stand and stretch together.  Try it–it will confuse the students, which makes it so much fun!

The belief in humor and its healing properties can transform your classroom, your students, but the most important person in the room, you.  Your eyes will sparkle, your voice will ring, and your students will wonder what you are up to.  Keep them guessing and chuckling.   Remember, the year isn’t over, and there is still time to make a difference in the classroom.  We only get this one chance, so let’s have some fun and take them with us.  It’s worth the trip.



About Teaching it Forward

We are high school language arts teachers in Oregon.
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