Using Humour In The EFL Classroom
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Learning English can be a difficult task. It requires motivation, dedication and hours and hours of hard work. Even if our classes are filled with the most dedicated and motivated students, they could still use some help getting through their lessons. One way to do this is to ensure our lessons have their fair share of humour. However, before you whip out your favourite one-liner, there are a few things you need to bear in mind.
1. Humour does not always translate
What is funny in your culture may not be funny in another. This is not only a cultural issue, but a personal one as well. Your students may not appreciate the jokes you find funny (just like your friends might not find your jokes funny!).
2. Jokes are difficult to understand
Whether it is a pun, a play on intonation or a reference to popular culture, jokes are difficult to understand from a linguistic perspective. Learners need to have quite a high level of English to be able to understand linguistically complex humour.
3. Jokes are not funny if you need to explain them
Jokes are only funny if your audience understands them immediately. Having to take time to explain the joke detracts from the humour.
4. You can’t force humour
Don’t try to spend an entire lesson on jokes and humour. If you spend a lot of time deconstructing and unpacking jokes, they are not likely to be appreciated. Jokes should be spontaneous, off-the-cuff and contextual.
Why use humour in the EFL classroom?
Having said all that, there is still room for humour in our lessons. A classroom without laughter is a very sad place indeed. Humour can help build rapport within the classroom and cohesion between the students; it can engage the students and keep them interested in your lessons; it can lighten up the atmosphere, even in the most stressful learning environments, like exam classes; it lowers the affective filter to create a more effective learning environment. There are so many reasons to include humour in your lessons, as long as you approach it in the correct way.
How to use humour in the EFL classroom?
- Get to know your students and understand their humour
- Use images to convey visual humour
- Let your students come up with the jokes
- Use different voices and personalities in role-plays and dialogues
- Show your students that you are not afraid to laugh at yourself
- Share funny stories and anecdotes
- Don’t force it
Using humour in the classroom is not something that can be taught. It is not a teaching skill that you will magically pick up on your TEFL course. However, being yourself and being relaxed and conversational in the classroom will allow your sense of humour to shine through as well as those of your students. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to think of a million jokes to put into your lessons. If you build a good relationship with your students you will find your classes laughing naturally, which is the way it should be.
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