Teaching ESL Students Using Humor & Jokes

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Using humor to teach students can be a challenge, and it adds complexity when you use humor with English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. This lesson provides teachers with practical guidance on how to use humor to teach ESL students.

A Room Full of Laughter

Those teachers who were overly strict or judgmental might still give you nightmares, but don't you look back fondly on those caring teachers who helped you enjoy learning? Maybe they were even a little crazy, but they had something special that made learning fun. Those are the teachers who inspire visits or letters years later.

Students often relate to teachers based on how they deliver content and behave in the classroom. One great way to develop a lasting rapport between teacher and student is with the use of humor. This is difficult enough when everyone uses English as a first language, so how can a teacher effectively use humor in a classroom full of ESL learners? It can be tricky, but it's not impossible.

Use Humor to Put Students at Ease

Humor can be a great way to break up monotony, put students at ease and establish a bond. When ESL teachers use humor appropriately, it can allow students to observe a different aspect of the language they are working so hard to understand.

Many ESL students, especially beginners, are nervous about making mistakes or looking foolish in front of their peers. One effective use of humor is to take attention away from a student's mistakes. For instance, if a student is unable to answer a question and seems to be starting to feel panicked, deflect the student's silence with a joke like, 'I don't even think I could answer that question.'

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