From The Guardian: Learning From Laughter
Learning From Laughter in the Guardian points out that experienced teachers will encourage laughter in class, and note a few different ways to start – one is simply making a joke when you yourself make a mistake on the board or with a certain sound or word in your students’ language.
How else can you bring about laughter? Jokes may work, but different things are funny to different people, and you may feel awkward with a joke that bombs. I’ve heard the comedic strategy that it’s funnier when you “pretend to be serious” than if you “pretend to be funny.”
The article also recommends being on the lookout for quick-witted or extroverted people who will engage in a banter with you. If you can follow their lead – as they will probably be more on the ball about what the others find funny – all the better.
It might reach the point of an inside class joke – Tomas never does the homework, Robert always wants the shorter, easier half of the jigsaw, Ana always has the right answer. Of course you need to be sensitive to how your students respond. Some people will take a running joke well and enjoy it – others may interpret it as teasing. I would make sure that if I’m joking with someone in this way that I have some kind of other rapport with them – even if it’s just a normal “vibe” during the class, and if I have any doubt that they are enjoying it, I stop.
It could be as simple as facial expression or a well-placed pause or head tilt. If someone says something which could have a funny interpretation (even you), pause and then laugh a bit and see if someone gets it. During this informal humor, I am personally slower to stop people from saying a few words in their own language. If you have to explain a joke, especially if you have to explain in English, it loses much of the humor, but if more people can be included in a fun dynamic because someone says a few words in the local language – I think that’s fine.
“Experienced language teachers know that good teaching involves far more than technical proficiency; it involves encouraging each class to function as collectively as possible.” Using humor is not something that just makes the class more fun; it is one tool you can use to create a positive dynamic. First of all this makes people’s time pleasant and provides an additional incentive for them to simply come to class. Second,people are just more receptive and relaxed when they are enjoying themselves and more likely to learn.