The Many Proven Learning Benefits, and How to Get The Brain Effects in Your Own Classroom
Attention, teachers everywhere! It turns out laughter actually is the best medicine! A fascinating Huffington Post article shares that a study at California’s Loma Linda University reveals that laughter provides lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and better memory recall abilities.
So, we know laughter is beneficial for adults, but do you know the wide range of benefits humor and laughter can have on your students and their learning?
Take a minute and think about the lessons you remember most from middle and high school. If you’re like me, these lessons are memorable because you were laughing; there was humor somehow involved.
According to Edutopia, “Humor activates the brain's dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, which means that humor can improve retention in students of all ages.”
Simply put, when something is funny, students have a better chance at remembering!
Humor is inherently social. When someone tells a funny joke or story, others likely want to repeat it. When there is humor in the classroom, students are more apt to socialize and build relationships with each other.
Similarly, laughter creates a bond. If your entire class is giggling or laughing over some humor, they’re forming a cohesive bond and becoming one unit.
Reduce math anxiety and stress
Math anxiety and stress are huge issues for our students in today’s classrooms. Humor is a standout solution.
According to the American Psychological Association, in his book, "Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator," Ron Berk, PhD, suggests that humor's primary psychological role is as an emotional response or buffer to relieve physical stress. Moreover, laughter has been shown to stimulate a physiological effect that decreases stress hormones such as serum cortisol, dopac and epinephrine.
How to Incorporate Humor
If you’re interested in adding some humor to your classroom, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
1) Keep it age-appropriate
Some teachers walk a fine line between using humor appropriate for their students and humor more appropriate for adults. There are many benefits to humor, but it is not worth an upset parent or student. Also along these lines, try to avoid sarcasm or other humor that could potentially be hurtful to a student. The biggest priority is always maintaining values and respect!
2) Don’t overdo it
It’s important to ensure that your students respect you and take you seriously, and that is not going to happen if you are joking around the whole class.
You need to make sure you’re comfortable. It not only helps how you feel as a teacher, but it puts your students at ease.
3) Think About Timing
One of the reasons why humor is so beneficial is that it grabs attention. Consider using humor right at the start of class or when you can see your students are becoming distracted.
Making jokes or telling funny stories at the right times really maximizes the benefits of humor.
Ways to Incorporate Humor
Now, you may be someone who naturally has jokes rolling off the tongue all day long; or, you may be wondering how to achieve these benefits of humor without completely altering your personality. If you are part of the latter, consider implementing these simple ways to add humor into your classroom on a regular basis!
Memes as part of warm-up activities
A quick and simple way to add some giggles each day is to add a meme that's related to your specific subject on warm-up activities. If you pull up the warm-up activity on the smartboard, simply paste a meme above the words beforehand.
Pinterest is full of great memes for any subject. Simply search “funny [your subject] memes” and you will get endless options!
Sharing funny stories or anecdotes in your life are a great way to add humor. Students love to hear more about your life, so it’s easy to build teacher-student relationships and make lessons a little more light-hearted.
Another way to add humor to class is by selectively adding funny components to word problems on tests or quizzes. Consider using students’ names or their favorite characters if the word problem involves people (again always keeping it positive and respectful, of course!).
Math comic of the week
Consider setting up an area on your wall or bulletin board for a math comic of the week. Posting a math comic each week will give your students something to look forward to when they walk in the room each Monday!
Pinterest is the best place to go for the most variety. Here is a Pinterest board for Math Humor that I started upon learning some of this research. I'll add to it as I find more, so follow the board for more to come later!
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