I have mixed feelings about his because I have been in a few uncomfortable situations. First, because I am not very funny, and have been met with awkward silence more times than I can count. Second, because I have failed to be culturally sensitive and accidentally offended people.
If it is used properly, as mentioned by Paul-Emile Chiasson's article, humour allows studenst to feel like part of the class and possibly contribute without feeling exposed or vulnerable, which is particularly important in a communicative classroom. Humour can be a way of reaching out to those students who are too anxious or afraid of expressing themselves in their second language. Humour plays a major role in our every day social interaction, and as such, it should not be ignored, but embraced as part of our everyday classroom learning.
According this article from Faculty Focus, Eskey talks about preliminary research on use of humor in online learning (the article is from 2010) and according to the students he surveyed, 98% agreed that humor can facilitate interactions and allow students to view the instructor as more approachable. If 98% of students agree that it can create positive learning experiences online, there is no reason why it cannot do the same in a classroom.
To use humour effectively, here are some tips:
- Research your audience to assess culture, experience, and personality
- Don't let the humor overshadow the subject matter
- Create entertaining stories and examples to highlight the subject matter
- Keep the tone upbeat and motivational
- Where you use humor is just important as how you use it
- Avoid using sarcasm
- Laugh at yourself -- when you do something silly or wrong, mention it and laugh at it
- Keep a quotable quotes bulletin board or corner in your room -- look for humor quotes and post them and encourage your students to do the same
- Keep a cartoon file, and have an area where you can display one or two a day on a rotating basis, with students making the choice
- Have Joke Friday -- ask students to bring in jokes to share, either to start the day on Friday, to make a transition between lunch and the following class, or at the end of the day (be sure to screen the jokes in advance, of course)
- Ask students to try to build humor into occasional writing assignments -- that will start a conversation about what it funny, how they know something is funny, why different people find some things funny but some things are funny to almost everyone
- Have a funny hat day, or mismatched socks day, or some other funny dress-up time (it doesn't have to be Halloween)
- Build creative and humorous thinking by showing cartoons and picture without captions and asking students to create them -- individually, in pair-shares, or small groups