Do your students ever seem a little bored or sleepy?
As a teacher, there’s nothing more frightening than standing at the front of the class and having at a bunch of despondent faces staring back at you.
When my classes start to seem apathetic, I like to spice things up with some classic English jokes!
Jokes are a great way to lighten the atmosphere in your classroom and, when used appropriately, they can be a fun way to get students practicing their English.
Using jokes in your classroom will not only get your students laughing, they’ll keep them learning too!
8 Side-splitting Ways to Teach Classroom Jokes in English
Jokes are a great way to keep your students engaged and interested in learning English. They provide a vehicle for you to introduce different cultural aspects and scenarios. Plus, they’re great for giving students the opportunity to use English in a more real-world, everyday setting.
With jokes, students will still be learning how to use the English language, but will be removed from the dryness of grammar exercises and textbooks. They provide an excellent chance to practice intonation and pronunciation, and students will likely encounter a significant amount of new vocabulary too.
One of the best reasons to use jokes in the classroom is that they help students become aware of the subtleties of the language. They will see how some words have two or more meanings or how some words are homophones, like “red” and “read” in the riddle: What’s black and white and red all over? (A newspaper)
8 Ways You Can Use Jokes in Your Classroom
1. Do a Presentation on the Many Types of Jokes Available
You could spend a whole lesson on jokes! Introduce your students to all the different types of jokes:
- Knock-knock jokes
- Common jokes
Prepare a slide presentation or a handout on the various forms jokes take. Start with a general description and provide examples. Within the examples, you may need to explain the answer in detail.
Once you’ve presented your description and explanation of each type of joke, give students a chance to practice what they learned. You can prepare a short worksheet for them to fill out that includes various examples of jokes you want them to identify. Or, if you want to go more in depth, you can display jokes on the board one at a time and ask the class to identify the jokes and, when applicable, come up with an answer.
Here are some examples you can include in your lesson:
A type of joke that exploits the different possible meanings of a word.
Q: How much does a pirate pay for corn?
A: A buccaneer (a “buck an ear” meaning “a dollar per ear”)
Q: Why was King Arthur’s army too tired to fight?
A: It had too many sleepless knights (the common “knight” versus “night” issue)
Q: What do you call a thieving alligator?
A: A Crook-o-dile (“crook” the informal word for “thief”)
Q: What do you call a bee that can’t make up its mind?
A: A Maybe
These puns are great to start with because they include some new vocabulary, slang and will, with any hope, instigate a conversation on spelling and pronunciation.
Discover more fun puns here.
This type of joke is pretty straightforward. It’s basically just a witty play on words.
So what if I don’t know what “Armageddon” means? It’s not the end of the world.
Did you hear about the crook who stole a calendar? He got twelve months!
I’ve just written a song about tortillas; actually, it’s more of a rap!
Take time to explain, when necessary, each of the examples. You may need to cover the meaning of the word “Armageddon” in the first one-liner. In the second, you’ll have the chance to go over the phrase “to get ‘X amount of time.'” The third phrase is another nice example of a homophone.
You can find more examples of one-liners here.
The quintessential joke of childhood. A simple question and answer type of joke.
A: Knock, knock!
B: Who’s there?
B: Beets who?
A: Beets me!
A: Knock, knock!
B: Who’s there?
B: Kiwi who?
A: Kiwi go to the store?
A: Knock, knock!
B: Who’s there?
B: Lettuce who?
A: Let us in, we’re freezing!
A: Knock, knock
B: Who’s there?
B: Figs who?
A: Figs the doorbell, it’s broken!
In many cases, knock-knock jokes are a play on words and optimize the use of homophones. With these types of jokes, you can show students how important clear pronunciation really is. For example, “figs,” when said quickly and with poor pronunciation, comes out sounding like “fix.”
Find more knock-knock jokes here.
Riddles are not always funny, but let’s consider them a close relative of the joke. They often require a lot of thinking and take advantage of the ambiguity of the English language.
Q: The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?
Q: You see a boat filled with people. You look again, but this time you don’t see a single person on the boat. Hint: The boat has not sunk.
A: All the people on the boat are married
Students must understand what the riddles are asking and carefully think about their answers. They test their knowledge of the language and force them to carefully consider, words meanings, verb tenses and phrasing.
You can find more great riddles here.
A regular joke usually has a short story or anecdote with a punchline at the end that makes everyone laugh.
Tip: Make sure to include an explanation of “punchline” in your lesson!
Teacher: Did your father help you with your homework?
Student: No, he did it all by himself!
Teacher: Tell me a sentence that starts with “I.”
Student: I is the…
Teacher: Stop! Never put “is” after I.” Always put “am” after “I.”
Student: Okay…I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.
A: Why did the chicken cross the road?
B: To get to the other side!
A: How many flies does it take to screw in a light bulb?
B: Two, but nobody knows how they got in there.
The first two examples here are nice because show how deceptive and tricky English can be. The last are iconic jokes, and English students interested in cultural aspects will appreciate them.
Tip: You may want to give crossing-the-road and light bulb jokes their own section in your presentation or lesson. That’s up to you.
Want to really engage your students? Bring FluentU into your lessons. Not only does FluentU let students learn English through jokes and puns, it also gives them more exposure to the culture of English-speaking countries around the world.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
2. Warmers or Wrap-up
Sometimes it can be fun to break the ice by telling a simple joke to start the day’s lesson. It’s not that hard to find jokes related to just about any topic you can imagine. For example, if you’ve planned a lesson on food or American culture, you could open your lesson with a short joke:
Q: What kind of nut has a hole?
A: A donut.
Give the students at least a few minutes to try to figure out the answer. If a student guesses correctly, great! If not, give them the answer and provide them with an explanation as you see fit.
Another option is to wrap-up a class with a joke.
A good joke is perfect for easing any lingering tension, especially after a long, hard lesson.
You can even give challenge your students with a riddle at the end of class, asking them to report back with their answers in the next class.
If possible, try to use a riddle that’s related to the material you discussed in class. For example, for a lesson on weather, you might use:
Q: I fly without wings, I cry without eyes. What am I?
3. Complete the Joke or Fill in the Blank
This activity is ideal for practicing reading comprehension and critical thinking once students are familiar with the types of jokes we have in English.
Prepare a worksheet that lists as many different jokes as you like. For each joke, remove one of the keywords and put it in a word bank box at the top of the worksheet. In class, instruct students to work individually or in small groups to fill in the missing words and complete the jokes. Students must carefully read each joke and understand it to determine which word from the word bank fits in the blank.
4. Match the Beginning of the Joke with Its Ending
Great for encouraging teamwork, critical thinking and general language practice, this activity will keep your students engaged and curious.
For this activity, you will need to type up a list of jokes you’d like to use with your students. Type them in such a way that you can cut them in half. Then, print the sheet out and cut the jokes in half so that the beginning of the joke is separated from its punchline.
For example, if you use the joke: I’m a big fan of whiteboards. I find them quite re-markable. “I’m a big fan of whiteboards” should be on one slip of paper and “I find them quite re-markable” should be on another.
In class, distribute the pieces of the jokes so that each student has a slip of paper. The students must circulate the room and talk with each other in order to find the beginning or ending half of the joke they have.
Tip: Another option is to prepare one set of disassembled jokes per student or small group of students. The students then must compete against each other to correctly match all the jokes first. The first student or group of students to successfully match all the jokes wins.
5. Grammar Focus
In this activity, students must exercise their English grammar skills
This exercise can be done in a number of ways. The idea is to get your students to focus on grammar and analyze the jokes.
Begin by picking jokes you want to use in class, and use topic-appropriate jokes when possible. For example, if you’re doing a unit on food, try to find jokes related to cooking, eating or anything else food-related. Then, decide what grammatical aspect you’d like your students to focus on.
Prepare a worksheet with your selected jokes. For each joke, ask the students to identify whatever grammatical element you’ve chosen to practice. In the pun below, not only could you ask your students to identify the homophone, you could also ask them to say what verb tense is being used. Take it a step further and have them also give you the infinitive form of the verbs used.
Yesterday, a clown held the door open for me. It was such a nice jester!
This activity can really be adapted for whatever grammar concept you’d like your students to practice. I recommend letting your students work in pairs or small groups to complete the worksheet. Make sure you save time at the end of the lesson to go over the correct answers and address any questions that may have arisen.
Students will have to practice their translating skills while looking at some of the differences between their native language and English.
Ask students to think about some of their favorite jokes in their own language. Then, in pairs or small groups, have them translate the jokes into English as best as they can. In my experience, students are always eager to share their own culture with their teacher, and this can be fun for the whole class, including you!
Once the students have completed translating the jokes, ask them to share them with the class. Analyze them.
- Do the jokes make sense in English? Why or why not?
- Is the joke based on a cultural reference that doesn’t have meaning in English?
- Did everyone get the same translation?
- Can anyone think of a better way to say the joke in English?
Questions like these will help students practice their speaking or writing skills, teaching them how to express their thoughts and ideas more effectively.
7. Writing Jokes
This activity lets students exercise their creativity and practice their general English skills.
Once students are familiar with the different types of joke structures, give them a chance to write their own jokes. They can work individually or with their peers to create their own jokes. You can provide as little or as much structure as you like. Maybe you only want them to focus on speaking, so ask them to write knock-knock jokes with a partner. Or, perhaps you want them to write three jokes in whatever form they choose, or you could ask them to write at least one joke in each of the categories listed above.
However you decide to structure this activity, always make sure you save time at the end of the lesson for students to share their favorite jokes.
Tip: To restrict the content of the jokes, you may want to provide a theme for your students.
8. Stand Up Comedy Show
What’s better than presentations to get your students up and speaking? A comedy show!
Students can practice their presentation and public speaking skills in a fun, care-free environment.
Let students prepare the jokes they want to perform. They could memorize existing jokes or write their own. Students can work individually or perform in pairs. Decide on how much time you want to give each student or pair to perform their routine.
Spend one lesson letting them prepare their routine, then host the comedy show the following class. That way, students will feel more comfortable presenting in front of their peers.
For more advanced classes where students are likely to perform a bit longer, you might even want to decorate the classroom and provide some refreshments to make it extra special!
As you can see, jokes can be a really useful tool in the classroom.
These are just some of the ways you might incorporate jokes into your teaching, but feel free to get creative! From introducing new vocabulary and cultural practices to providing ways to practice grammar, jokes can be used to add an element of fun to just about any English lesson.