Humour and Laughter in the Learning Environment
How is Your Sense of Humour?
Has anyone ever asked you, “How do I teach my child to gain a sense of humour?” Laughter is the best medicine. This is an old adage which has rung true down the ages and helped many of us out of sticky situations. Humour and laughter are as important as oxygen. They lifts the spirit, lightens situations, calms stress, and exercises muscles! Laughter is contagious and you may find yourself laughing even though you didn’t hear the joke. Sharing humour is a way of increasing our social skills as others tend to gravitate to laughter.
Laughter has been found to improve health as it draws people together and triggers both physical and emotional changes in the body. Laughter makes you feel good as it releases endorphins, the feel good hormone, and this feeling can last after the laughter has stopped. Laughter can diminish stress and pain and strengthen the immune system. It can lighten anger and burns calories. It relaxes the body and is thought to protect the heart by improving blood flow.
Children's Humour and Laughter
The ability to be humorous and recognise humour in others seems to come naturally to children as they are not weighed down by inhibitions. Children have an innate ability to allow themselves to use laughter to socialise and gain control of situations which gives them time to problem solve. The cycle of humour, laughter and play go hand in hand as an integral part of a child’s every day learning.
Different personalities view humour in different ways. Some children thrive on humour. They have a naturally quick wit and can find humour in many situations. Be watchful for opportunities to encourage humour and be careful not to dampen it with sarcasm. If you feel a humorous situation is getting out of hand then don’t be afraid to call a stop, acknowledge the humour, and ask the child to refocus on the task at hand.
Humour used in planning lessons to practice, speech, auditory input, and sound/word processing, can be encouraged with the use of humorous stories and poetry. Start with simple verse for eg; the poem, “Did you know it takes a year to get your elbow in your ear? Once it’s in without a doubt, you may never get it out”, uses thought provoking humorous action and asks the child to solve the problem. Once they realise they can’t then humour kicks in and their ability to understand humour grows. Using humorous poetry to teach literacy can often allow teaching a new concept to be fun and more memorable. Alliteration has long been used to encourage phonological awareness in young learners for eg; “An itchy witch was pitched in a ditch by a broom with a terrible twitch.” Learners love alliteration, tongue twisters, and silly poetry, so include them to encourage humour.
Literacy learning through humour is repetitive and you will find children repeating funny verse just because it is funny, and they can. This increases their language and social skills if they are able to make other children laugh. Children laugh a lot more than adults and as teachers or parents you may have to find your inner child, to be allowed to join in to their laughter. Adults usually need a reason to laugh. Children don’t need a specific reason because they are programed to laugh because they feel happy. If there is lots of laughter in the learning environment you can be sure your program is working well. Laughter is an excellent gauge of the happiness of children and how comfortable and safe they feel in the environment you have made for them.
Take some time to assess your own sense of humour and how you use it to teach children. Using laughter as a teaching tool will strengthen your relationship with your learners and attract them to you for positive interactions. This promotes bonding of adults and children, enhances team work, and can help to defuse conflict.
Heather Collins is an Early Childhood and Special Education Teacher who makes developmentally appropriate resources for teachers and parents to use with their children. She is author and co-author of poetry books and children’s books. She is a passionate collagist and has crafted beautiful finger puppets and story aprons suitable for early childhood education.
Her resources can be purchased on this website or she can be contacted at Create-Ed by emailing email@example.com. You can order an original apron for any favourite storybook.