By Dr. Art Costa. Read more from Dr. Costa here.
Would it be too bizarre to develop a lesson plan with the objectives of which are to have your students laugh at least three times? Would it be too ridiculous to state your outcomes as having students not only learn the content but also to find the process of learning joyful, fun and humorous? Might your students say, “My teacher makes us laugh?”
Laughter Is Powerful Medicine.
“Warning: Humor may be hazardous to your illness.”
– Ellie Katz
People who laugh a lot usually have a positive attitude and the ability to find humour, even when plans are not going well. Since these people are fun to be around, others gravitate toward them and they generally have a strong social network that benefits them and everyone with whom they interact.
Laughter does more than make one feel good. A hearty belly-laugh has many of the same physiological effects as exercise: laughter increases pulse, blood pressure and respiratory rate. It oxygenates the brain as well as delivers oxygen throughout the rest of the body. It stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which enhances blood flow and reduces inflammation. Vigorous, sustained laughter even burns calories!
Laughter alters brain functioning and boosts production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and “feel good” system. It reduces cortisol, the brain’s stress hormone, and may even improve memory. According to James J. Walsh, MD., people who laugh actually live longer than those who don’t laugh. Few people realise that health actually varies according to the amount of laughter.
Laughter In Your Lesson Plans
“You can increase your brainpower three to fivefold simply by laughing and having fun before working on a problem.”
– Doug Hall
Several strategies you might build into your teaching to harness the therapeutic power of laughter include:
- Have a positive attitude toward school and learning. Encourage your students to laugh and have fun while working on projects, doing group work and completing homework.
- Show comedy videos to your students and make a point of telling jokes and funny stories during class time.
- Encourage your students to search for opportunities to find humour and to laugh. If they cannot find such opportunities, laugh anyway.
- Start your students on a pathway of finding humour with a smile, graduate to a chuckle, progress to a bellylaugh and strive towards hysterical.
- While it may be difficult to find reasons for laughter, it’s easy to simply laugh–laugh on credit–that’s almost as good as genuine laughter.
- Show and discuss the WondergroveKids animation, Finding Humour. Invite your students to take a risk and share when they did something “stupid” but laughed at themselves. What effect did it have on them
and the others?
- Invite students to tell humorous stories, bring in jokes and cartoons. Discuss what makes a situation humorous. Set up a laughter corner in your classroom where jokes and cartoons are displayed.
As a teacher, laugh at yourself in the presence of your students. Modelling is one of the most powerful teaching strategies.
Practicing, Persisting and Perfecting
“Take time every day to do something silly.”
– Philipa Walker
While it may seem a little odd at first to smile and laugh when there’s nothing to smile or laugh about, try it with your students. You and they will soon get the knack of it. The more you laugh, the more spontaneous and beneficial it becomes.