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Using Humor in English Language Teaching: 30 Fun and Effective Ways
Humor is a powerful tool that can enhance English language teaching and learning. It can help to engage students, create a positive learning environment, and improve retention. Humor can also reduce anxiety, increase motivation, and foster rapport between teachers and learners. However, using humor in the ESL classroom requires careful planning and consideration. Humor should be appropriate for the age and proficiency level of the students, as well as culturally sensitive and relevant. Humor should also support the learning objectives and not distract from them. In this article, we will explore 30 ways to incorporate humor into your teaching and training for more effective ESL instruction.
- Icebreakers: Icebreakers are activities that help to break the ice and introduce students to each other and to the teacher. They can also be used to review previous lessons or introduce new topics. Icebreakers can be humorous to relax students and set a positive tone for the lesson. For example, you can ask students to share a funny fact about themselves, tell a joke or a riddle, or play a game like “Two Truths and a Lie”.
- Funny Videos: Videos are a great way to expose students to authentic English language and culture. They can also be used to practice listening comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, or speaking skills. Funny videos can capture students’ attention and interest, as well as stimulate discussion and laughter. For example, you can show short, humorous video clips or cartoons related to the lesson topic, such as TED Talks, YouTube videos, or animated films.
- Jokes of the Day: Jokes are a simple way to add humor to your lessons. They can also be used to teach vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or cultural aspects of English. Jokes can be displayed on the board, written on cards, or told orally by the teacher or the students. For example, you can begin each lesson with a light-hearted joke or riddle related to the lesson topic or theme.
- Puns: Puns are words or phrases that have a double meaning or sound alike but have different meanings. They are often used for humorous effect in English language and culture. Puns can be used to teach vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, or idioms. Puns can also challenge students’ critical thinking and creativity skills. For example, you can share English puns with your students and encourage them to create their own puns based on the lesson topic or theme.
- Comic Strips: Comic strips are short stories told through a series of drawings with captions or dialogue. They are often humorous and entertaining, as well as informative and educational. Comic strips can be used to teach reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, or writing skills. Comic strips can also spark students’ imagination and expression skills. For example, you can discuss comic strips or webcomics in English with your students and ask them to analyze the characters, plot, setting, humor, or message of the story.
- Role Play: Role play is an activity that involves acting out a situation or scenario in English. It is often used to practice conversational English in realistic contexts. Role play can also be humorous to make the activity more fun and engaging for the students. For example, you can include comical role-playing scenarios in your lessons, such as ordering food at a restaurant with a rude waiter, asking for directions from a confused tourist, or applying for a job with a crazy boss.
- Parodies: Parodies are works that imitate or mock other works for humorous effect. They are often used to criticize or comment on the original work or its genre. Parodies can be used to teach listening comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, or writing skills. Parodies can also develop students’ critical thinking and creativity skills. For example, you can analyze and create parodies of popular songs or texts with your students and ask them to identify the similarities and differences between the original and the parody.
- Cartoons and Comics: Cartoons and comics are similar to comic strips but usually longer and more detailed. They are often humorous and entertaining, as well as informative and educational. Cartoons and comics can be used to teach reading comprehension
Some examples of English puns are:
- A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired. This pun plays on the homophones “tired” and “tyred”, which sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. The word “tyred” refers to the wheels of the bicycle, while the word “tired” means exhausted or weary1.
- No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery. This pun plays on the homograph “stationery”, which is spelled the same way as “stationary” but has a different meaning. The word “stationery” means writing materials, such as paper and envelopes, while the word “stationary” means not moving or changing1.
- A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering. This pun plays on the double meaning of the word “littering”, which can mean either throwing rubbish in a public place or giving birth to a group of young animals2.
- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. This pun plays on the different ways of interpreting the word “like”. In the first sentence, “like” is used as a simile to compare time and an arrow. In the second sentence, “like” is used as a verb to express the preference of fruit flies for bananas3.
- The grammarian was very logical. He had a lot of comma sense. This pun plays on the near-homophones “comma” and “common”, which sound similar but have different meanings and spellings. The word “comma” refers to a punctuation mark, while the word “common” means ordinary or widespread. The phrase “common sense” means good judgment or practical wisdom.
How can I use puns in my ESL lessons?
Puns are a type of joke that use words or phrases that have a double meaning or sound alike but have different meanings. They are often used for humorous effect in English language and culture. Puns can be used in your ESL lessons to teach vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, or idioms. Puns can also challenge your students’ critical thinking and creativity skills. Here are some ways to use puns in your ESL lessons:
- You can share some examples of puns with your students and explain the meaning and the wordplay behind them. You can use the web search results above to find some puns related to different topics or themes. For example, you can use the puns from the first result1 or the second result2 and ask your students to identify the words or phrases that have a double meaning or sound alike.
- You can ask your students to create their own puns based on the lesson topic or theme. You can give them some guidelines or tips on how to make puns, such as using homophones, homographs, synonyms, antonyms, or word associations. You can also provide them with some word lists or pictures to inspire them. For example, you can use the word lists from the third result3 or the pictures from this website and ask your students to make puns with them.
- You can play some games with your students using puns. You can divide your students into teams and give them some clues or categories to guess the puns. You can also ask them to act out or draw the puns for their teammates to guess. For example, you can use the game ideas from this website or this website and adapt them to your lesson topic or theme.
Using puns in your ESL lessons can be a fun and effective way to engage your students, create a positive learning environment, and improve retention. However, you should also consider the cultural sensitivity and the level of difficulty of the puns for your students. Puns can be a great asset in language learning, but they should always contribute positively to the classroom atmosphere and learning objectives.
What is the difference between a pun and a joke?
A pun and a joke are both forms of humor, but they have some differences. A pun is a type of wordplay that exploits the multiple meanings or sounds of a word or phrase, while a joke is a display of humor that usually has a setup and a punchline. For example, the sentence “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.” is a pun, because it plays on the two meanings of “put down” (to place something on a surface or to criticize something). The sentence “What do you call a fish that wears a bowtie? Sofishticated.” is a joke, because it has a setup (the question) and a punchline (the answer) that creates humor by using a word that sounds like “sophisticated” but has “fish” in it. Puns and jokes can both be used to create laughter and amusement, but they have different structures and effects. Puns rely on the ambiguity or similarity of words, while jokes rely on the contrast or surprise of the punchline. Puns can be used as rhetorical devices or to create irony, while jokes are always intended to create comedy