TEFL Humor: Reading Satire In Class
According to this Guardian article, laughter in the classroom is a good thing, and that won’t come as a great surprise to anyone in TEFL. I recently incorporated three articles from The Onion into a very high level in-company speaking class: here’s how.
First we spoke about humor in general – share a funny situation (a joke you heard, something that happened to you, a funny movie you saw), describe what kind appeals to you (black humor, slapstick, puns/plays on words), and discuss whether you think there is a difference in the humor in different countries and specifically what you have noticed. Additional questions might be “What about stereotypes in jokes?” or “How common is humor in a business setting?”
My group already spoken about satire in connection with another text we’d read, but for the first time, I’d probably introduce or give some example of what satire involves (“It pretends to deal with a serious topic but isn’t true.”)
I then told them the topics of the articles (voting in the US, Chanel No. 5, and teenagers’ opinions about school) and had them make some guess about what the article would be about or why it might be funny (giving people beer to get them to vote, Chanel No. 285, teenagers will try to be serious be then prove to be immature by something they say) – great. I then let each person choose which one they wanted to read.
In this group, the task is usually just to read the article, summarize it, and give their opinion on it or think of a question or two it raises; in this case, the articles are based on invented facts, so they don’t really lend themselves to being summarized or opined on. Instead, I asked them to explain briefly and pick out a few lines they found funny.
A more serious question might be “Do these point to real issues?” such as materialism, apathy of teenagers, bad survey methods, electoral catastrophe? Our answer was – the reader can read into it what they like. If they just want to laugh, they can, if they want to find a bigger issue, that’s possible too. For a more in-depth (not just speaking) class, you might then search for examples of formal language, or compare one of the satire articles with a real article on a similar topic.
The level of these individuals is very high; I haven’t taught any proficiency classes, but skills-wise, for comparison purposes, they would breeze through the reading, listening and speaking parts of Headway or Cutting Edge Advanced. Generally, I think satire, especially these texts from The Onion,are for very high level students. It won’t be funny if you have to explain too much vocab.
If anyone has suggestions for other ways to incorporate humor into your classes, I’d love to hear them – leave me a comment!