Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

Using Humor in the Classroom to Keep Students Engaged

How to use humor in the classroom


Everyone loves a good laugh, and your students are no exception. According to Mary Kay Morrison, author of Using Humor to Maximize Learning, laughter lights up more of the brain than many other functions in a classroom. So, what can laughter do for your students?  In a study, Ramon Mora-Ripoll discovered that laughter releases physical and emotional tension, elevates mood, enhances cognitive functioning, and increases friendliness.  Those are all positive things, but many of us are hesitant to use humor in the classroom.

When I first started learning about the benefits of using humor in the classroom, I became very discouraged.  You see, I can’t tell a joke.  Seriously, I’m terrible at it, and I was so worried I needed to be a comedian in my classroom.  But don’t despair.  You don’t have to be a comedian or particularly funny to incorporate humor in the classroom. You can just share materials that have humor in them!  Let’s take a quick look at some easy ways to incorporate humor in the classroom and get your kiddos laughing and learning!

Language Arts and Humor in the Classroom

The verdict is in – kids love books that make them laugh, so I try to have a section of my classroom library that has funny stories.  Some of my kids’ favorites are:

  • Dave Pilkey’s books: Captain Underpants, Hallo Weiner, Dog Man, and Dog Breath
  • Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
  • David Shannon Books
  • Amelia Bedelia books
  • Shel Silverstein books of poetry – you’ll find many humorous poems

Some other ways I have used humor in the classroom to teach language arts are:

Mad libs junior to use humor in the classroom to keep students engaged

Have the kids complete Mad Libs – they’re a great way to incorporate humor in the classroom when learning parts of speech.  Mad Libs is a word game where kids use a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story.  They are often humorous or nonsensical and are fun to read aloud.  Your kids will roll on the floor laughing at the stories they create.

Plan activities that incorporate play on words like puns, idioms, and multiple-meaning words


Find funny photographs and have students create stories to go with the pictures.

Social Students and Humor in the Classroom

When teaching social studies, one of my favorite resources to use is the Horrible Histories materials.


Your students will have a blast exploring this website!  There are fun games and activities, horrible jokes, and quizzes, and printables.  There are over 20 Horrible Histories books now in print.  One of my favorite ones is The Awful Egyptians.  Ancient Egypt is a unit I have taught for over 20 years to my gifted students, and I have had several editions of this book.  It’s always a favorite with the kiddos.  They love all the disgusting facts about everyday life in ancient Egypt, especially the information about the mummification process.


There are several Horrible History videos on YouTube.  One of my favorites from the Groovy Greeks book is the Spartan Parent Teacher Conference.  I like to have my students create their own Horrible History videos in class.  This is one of their favorite activities because they get to select unusual, gross, and gruesome facts from a culture or historical period and present them in a humorous way.

Science and Humor in the Classroom

You can also use humor in your science classes.  I especially like to add humor when we are studying animals.  Two fun books I used when learning about animal adaptations were What If You Had Animal Teeth?  and What If You Had Animal Hair?  The follow-up activities the students can do after reading these two books are fabulous!

  • Kids can make self portraits and add animal teeth and hair and write about their adventures.
  • Write Fortunately/Unfortunately stories about suddenly living with animal teeth, tails, hair, etc.  These can be so funny.  Here’s an example.

I woke up one morning and discovered I had beaver teeth!  Fortunately everything else was normal, but unfortunately I couldn’t slip through a straw because my teeth keep getting in the way and breaking off pieces of the straw.  I closed my eyes and said a wish to get rid of my beaver teeth.  Fortunately, when I looked in the mirror they were gone, but unfortunately, I now had elephant tusks!  Fortunately, they came in handy when taking out the trash.  Unfortunately, they were so heavy I kept falling forward and had to walk on my arms and legs.  Fortunately, I closed my eyes and said a wish to get rid of my elephant tusks and when I looked in the mirror, they were gone! Unfortunately, I now had shark teeth.  Fortunately, I lost several teeth a day.  Unfortunately I had a tooth that moved forward to take its place and the tooth fairy went broke.  Fortunately, I closed my eyes and said a wish to get rid of my shark teeth and fortunately when I opened my eyes they were gone and I was me again!

Math and Humor in the Classroom

One way to incorporate humor into math is to write funny word problems. I try to find situations that my kids might think are funny like a monkey stealing all the bananas or a scarecrow that talks, etc.

Another way is to use jokes. My students love math jokes!  I have a collection of them you can download in my Free Resource Library.  Click on the image to go to my Resource Library.  You could put them up on a math joke of the day bulletin board.

These are just a few examples of ways you can use humor in the classroom to keep your kids engaged and learning!  What are some ways you use humor in the classroom?



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hey y'all

I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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