Cross-Curricular - You've got to be kidding

8th February 2013 at 00:00
Humour's no joke - put it to serious use in the classroom

Humour is a funny old thing. Go on a date without a GSOH and you will be sleeping alone; take a po-faced friend to the pub at your peril. It is, however, not always welcome in the classroom, for there is no challenge more devastating to authority than a single whispered joke.

But comedy can be your friend. It does not take masses of preparation - no one comes to maths class expecting Michael McIntyre, although I bet he has some good shtick on equilateral triangles. Try too hard and you run the risk of channelling David Brent. But a sprinkling of humour here and there will make your timetable so much sweeter. Once your pupils are enjoying themselves, they will be learning without even knowing it. And who's laughing then? You are. In the style of Mr Burns.

The easiest and most rewarding way to use comedy is in memorising massive chunks of knowledge. Tom Lehrer was truly on to something when he sang The Elements, but go one better. Get your pupils to rap, Professor Green-style, with bonus points for swagger. Or how about a daft acronym? Whether it is a list of equations or the kings and queens of England, if you can get it to spell KARDASHIAN then so much the better.

A particularly delicious vein of jokes can be found in the collision between pop culture and the classroom. Say your geographers have to debate the merits of three sites for a proposed airport. Sure, you can split them into groups and have each pupil give one point for or against. But how much more fun and, crucially, more memorable if they do so in the style of The X Factor judges.

There is a perception that comedy equates with silliness, and that by using it you risk losing control. But it is much better to have pupils who are lively and engaged than a room drowning in Friday afternoon torpor. By being the one in charge of the jokes, you are taking the power back.

Because, whether you like it or not, your pupils are laughing anyway. Ignore it if you want but there is so much to be gained in harnessing that energy and redeploying it for your own ends.

So next time there is sniggering from the back row, do an experiment. Instead of trying to quell it, share the joke. See where it takes you. If those pupils have noticed the idiotic phrasing of an exam question, chances are that everyone else in the room has noticed it, too.

Point it out, laugh, then you can all move on - to that Wayne Rooney vs Peter Crouch dribbling competition. Or your class rendition of Peter and the Wolf. On 32 kazoos.

Marianne Levy is author of Ellie May Would Like to be Taken Seriously for a Change, published by Jelly Pie, #163;5.99.

What else?

Explore the history of microbes and disease: get pupils to create comic strips to show what people once believed about the transmission of diseases.


Develop pupils' number skills in mufc_ed's challenge based on The X Factor. Show them how to work backwards through function machines and encourage them to compete for the top spot.


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