What did the mathematical acorn say when he grew up?
“Ge-om-e-try!” (“Gee, I’m a tree!”)
Ah—dad jokes. Silly plays on words. Puns. Cornball humor. Eye-rollers. Groaners.
Ted Lasso is packed with goofy humor. Have you noticed how this keeps your attention? When you watch Ted Lasso, you listen to every line, because you don’t want to miss the goofy one-liners that crop up. The show is full of them.
Sometimes, they’re in the form of true jokes:
“What does an English owl say?” (“Whom.”)
On Rebecca attending team branding meetings: “I always feel so bad for the cows, but you gotta do it; otherwise, they get lost. That was a branding joke. If we were in Kansas right now, I’d just be sitting here waiting for you to finish laughing.”
But more often, they’re lines that are just silly:
“I feel like we fell out of the lucky tree and hit every branch on the way down, ended up in a pool of cash and Sour Patch Kids.”
“You beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet. I don’t want to hear it.”
“I shouldn’t bring an umbrella to a brainstorm.”
“I’m more stumped than Paul Bunyan’s local forest.”
“You two knuckleheads have split our locker room in half. And when it comes to locker rooms, I like ’em just like my mother’s bathing suits. I only wanna see ’em in one piece, you hear?”
In this short clip, we see several characters reel off goofy jokes:
The Benefits of Humor in the Classroom
For some kids, humor is a gold standard in the classroom. Especially for students who get bored when things are moving too slowly for them, little jokes and corny puns can help them pay attention and stay positively engaged. I still remember a line my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Sweetser, delivered in his classic dry tone: “Max Planck was bored with his name.” Here’s another. I was chatting with a colleague the other day, and he said that in the middle of class the other day, he told a girl named Paige to look at the wall to her left. She did, and he said to the class. “I just turned the Paige.”
The benefits of humor go beyond boosting students’ attention. Noted educators and authors Judy Willis and Eric Jensen have both cited convincing research that shows that creating joyful emotional states in the classroom can lead to greater academic engagement.
There’s even research that shows that corny humor can help build positive relationships, and we all know how important that is for students and their learning.
A Few Strategies for Using Humor in the Classroom
So, if you have a quick wit and enjoy cornball humor—use it!
Fortunately, we don’t have to be stand-up comedians or have a team of clever writers to sprinkle small moments of humor and levity into your teaching. (And you don’t have to be a dad to use dad jokes!) Here are a few strategies for using humor in the classroom.
Look up jokes that connect with the content you teach.
The humor we use doesn’t need to be connected to content, but if we can make the learning itself fun, why wouldn’t we?
Keep the list handy and drop one in the middle of a lesson every now and then.
Create a bulletin board.
Consider having a place on your classroom wall for a “joke of the day” or “joke of the week.” Or, you might have a whole bulletin board to share jokes that connect with current learning in your room.
Invite your students to add jokes to the collection. Of course, make sure to check the jokes before students share them to ensure they’re appropriate for the classroom.
Teach students how to recover.
You might be worried. What if your students get carried away? What if they can’t refocus on learning after they’ve had a good laugh?
I was in a middle school classroom recently where a teacher had inserted pictures of students faces into illustrations for math problems on the board. When kids saw the pictures, they howled with laughter (and the students whose faces had been used protested loudly while also laughing). The teacher gave everyone a moment to laugh and then said, “Okay. Bring it back. Let’s focus on the math.” Kids kept chuckling and refocused. This repeated a couple more times during the lesson, and each time, the teacher helped students settle back down.
I would sometimes say to my students, “I love to joke around, but we have to be able to get our control back after we’ve had a laugh. Try taking a couple of deep breaths if you think that might help.” I would also adjust how much humor I used based on how much my class could handle it.
Encourage your students to be playful.
Finally, just as Ted Lasso does in the clip below, encourage your students to crack jokes every now and then as well!
So, until next time…Caesar you later!