Laughter is the Best Medicine

Teaching Tips from AE – Using Humor Part 1- How Humor Enhances English Language Learning

American English American English Teach and learn American English In part one of this Teaching Tip topic, Dave and Stephen will examine what humor is and some benefits for using humor in the English language classroom. Welcome, guys! Welcome to How Humor Enhances English Language Learning, and thanks for joining! I’m Dave, and I’m happy to be here with you, and I’m Stephen and I’m looking forward to speaking with you today about how humor enhances English language learning. Let’s get started! Here are today’s goals: First, we’ll work to define humor because it’s actually a very broad concept that can be difficult to define. Next, we’ll provide some reasons for why a teacher may want to use humor in the English language classroom. But, before we do that why don’t we start with a joke? This is, after all, a presentation on humor! Okay, that sounds great! Dave, let me ask you a question. Sure! Do you know? How does a farmer count a herd of cows? How does a farmer count a herd of cows… hmm, I don’t know. Well, a farmer would use a cow-culator. Ah! Ha ha! Okay, now ask yourself Did you understand that joke? The humorous meaning in this joke comes from the similarity in sounds between the start of the word “calculator” and the word “cow.” Now that we shared a joke with you, let’s dig a little deeper into what humor actually is. In general, humor can be one of these three things. First, humor can be the thing that is funny, such as the joke we just heard. Second, humor can be the person who created humor such as the original author of the cow-culator joke. Finally, humor can be the responses the hearers have to humor. Great! So, we have a better idea or understanding of what humor is So, we now want to turn to the question of why we should use humor in the English language classroom. You may have some of your own ideas, and we have some here too that we’ll share with you. and we have some here, too, that we’ll share with you. First of all, the use of humor can help students feel more comfortable in the classroom- lowering their anxiety and allowing them to engage with the language more. Secondly, humor can be used to establish and maintain relationships in the classroom- not only between the teacher and students, but also among the students, themselves. Humor can also be used as a way to discuss difficult topics and situations that may be very serious and otherwise challenging to bring up in a classroom. Of course, humor can also be used as a way to relieve stress and relax the students. And, finally my favorite reason why we can use humor in the language classroom: because it’s fun! Now, those aren’t the only reasons why we should consider using humor in the language classroom. There are also theoretical arguments from the field of second language acquisition. First of all, the interaction hypothesis has long stated that language learning occurs when learners are interacting in meaningful conversations. In most meaningful conversations, speakers and hearers need to work together to negotiate meaning, in order to understand and to understand. They do so by modifying their language or changing what they say in order to help with understanding. We have a couple of examples to help explain what we mean. There are many situations in which a learner might not understand the person that is talking to them. For example, let’s pretend that Dave is the learner and I say to him, “Excuse me, Dave. Are you free right now?” Dave responds with “Am I free? What does that mean?” Clearly, Dave is indicating that he doesn’t quite understand what Steven has said. So, Stephen modifies this question and instead asks, “Dave, are you busy right now?” Dave responds, “Oh, no. I’m not busy.” In this example, the modifications that Stephen made allowed for Dave’s comprehension of the question. In other words, Stephen and Dave had to negotiate with one another in order to arrive at meaning. The same thing can happen when a learner cannot be understood. Let’s pretend that Dave is still an English language learner, and he says to me, “I do want food for eating.” Not quite understanding what Dave meant, I ask him, “what are you saying?” Dave recognized that I did not fully understand what he said, and therefore, changes his previous statement and instead says “I am hungry.” Now, I understand what Dave is saying and reply with “Okay, let’s go eat! Much like in the previous example, one of the people in the conversation needed to modify their speech in order to be understood. This modification, and the statements that lead to modification, are a crucial part of interaction that can work to promote language learning. So, how does this relate to humor? Well, because humor encourages interaction and social activity, it allows for students with different skill levels to talk with each other in the target language, and helps them to feel more comfortable. Using humor is realistic and meaningful, and many types of jokes and examples of humor may need to be explained. By explaining the humor behind language, learners are forced to consider the different meanings and forms of words. Summing up, today we defined humor and then we discussed some of the reasons for using humor in the classroom. Thank you so much for joining us today and see you again for the second video in the series. Don’t miss the next installment of this series where we will talk about identifying and using humor with “knock, knock” jokes. To check out other great Teaching Tip videos, be sure to subscribe to our American English Youtube Channel. You can find resources for teachers on the American English website by clicking on the link listed here, and if you haven’t already, be sure to like us on the American English for Educators FaceBook page.

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