A farceur or a wisecracker can in many ways teach and entertain at the same time, without running the risk of ever losing the class’ focus OR inducing sleep. There are numerous studies and research undertaken in the area of ‘using humor in the classroom’. Perhaps for the sole reason that teaching has been sessile for a long time and that reviving the lost art of stand up comedy intermixed with new technology could prove to be like CPR for everyday teaching.
Shooting a squib in the class can be more productive than giving a squalid, 18-century style lecture, with your coats of frills, pipe in the hand and self-important air. Believe me, its time you rather be a blatherskite than be a proprietor of a banal and sophomoric talk about the various uses of “phenolphthalein”(What??). Technology has already put the age-old profession at risk of extinction but there is another thought doing the rounds:
“Any teacher that can be replaced with a computer, deserves to be.” – David Thornburg
A sly and witty riposte, one that is perspicuously expressed and delivered, is an art long lost, its true, but not one that can not be over time acquired as an essential skill, especially for teachers. One need only make up one’s mind and come out of the box of the limitations of the mind.
A litigious teacher might argue about the “seriousness” of the profession in question and that the theory here presented might question the integrity and result in a mockery rather than an echt enrichment of the same. Condemning this misology (because it could be nothing else but), I am inclined to snub such archaic thoughts with a mot rather than an essay. But keeping in line with the lengths I must achieve with my present piece, let me put forward theories and thoughts that do not belong to me, and that would perhaps authenticate my present synopsis.
Were you to ask a boffin about the reasons why learners respond better to teachers using humor in the class, I am sure (s)he would tell you that, “Humor in educational settings serves a variety of positive functions beyond simply making people laugh. Humor builds group (as in class) cohesion. People respond more positively to each other when humor is present. It brings them together. Humor can facilitate cohesion by softening criticism. Research also establishes that humor helps individuals cope with stress. It relaxes them. (Source: Faculty Focus)”.
I do not accuse teachers of a lackadaisical approach or make assumptions that not enough is being done in the particular field of ‘gag and banter’ as is to be expected of a teacher. Not everyone is gifted with the gift of gag. I simply emphasize on the fact that given the right time and amount of dedication, the artistry and dexterity can be achieved.
Let me give some examples of artists who started small but have now evolved into celebrities. Their biggest selling point is their ability to deliver satire and whimsy in a teaching fashion. Should teachers use the examples of these proficient masters, there is hardly a class that would go unjustified. They could even integrate these videos into the flipped classroom models. Here is the list of some of the best comedians on YouTube who also teach you something:
- YGS or Your Grammar Sucks
Number 1 is the feature ‘Your Grammar Sucks’ by a YouTube channel started by a guy named Jack Douglass (jacksfilms). With a commendable aim of ‘cleaning up YouTube’ of grammatically improper and ugsome comments, Jack Douglass with his aides, will tickle your students’ funny bones as Jack’s team reads (or sometimes raps about) the funny comments. As much as the channel reinstates your beliefs in the overall stupidity of the world, it also gives your students a chance to feel morally obliged to comment right on the internet. Here is one episode of YGS you and your class will enjoy:
As an assignment, you could ask your students to prepare a video of their own with all the faulty comments they read on YouTube or social media. Besides being immensely interesting to undertake, the assignment could also equip them with video-making skills. Who knows one of them might end up being a YouTube celebrity (and perhaps mention you in the credits)!
#FunFact: Use these videos in your online classroom for a fun session on English Grammar.
- ERB or Epic Rap Battles of History
History could not be funnier or more amazing. Epic Rap Battles of History brings together two totally unrelated celebrities from the past and the present, and then opens the house for a verbal duel using Rap music. Dressing up people as the two chosen historical figures, Epic Rap Battles then ensues into a highly jocular exchange of factually correct, slightly explicit, historical information presented as Rap. Here is one rap battle between Gandalf (of the Lord of the Rings fame) and Dumbledore (Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft):
As an assignment, let your students decide who they wish to see in an Epic Rap Battle of History and let them dig up data on their chosen historical figures. Divide the class into two groups and assign them the task of dueling with each other using only the information they just unravelled. It could be a debate based on history, and learners could actually pretend to be the celebrity they have chosen.
#FunFact: Make the students dress up like their celebrity from the past or the present.
This YouTube channel will amaze you beyond belief. Studying the human nature can be even more interesting if you do it the comic way. Lahwf is doing exactly that. They conduct social experiments by creating situations in order to study the various ways in which people react to these situations. For example, this video:
I believe assigning a similar task to your students would need the presence of a teacher or a guardian, but such assignments could actually help your students open up more. This experiment will help them be more social and interact more openly with peers.
#FunFact: Let your hair down for a day by leading the experiment yourself and helping your students achieve the desired effect.
- Paint (Jon Cozart)
This guy knows his music and he hits no clinkers. Jon Cozart is an amazingly versatile artist who can do several musical sounds and vocals, and combine them to form a single complete musical video. Although his videos are mostly a bene placito, there is a lot of animato insight that music teachers all over the world can borrow from them. Here is a video of him doing the Cup Song(P.S. He is so much better than Glee):
For a music assignment, you could divide the class into groups and assign a musical instrument to each one of them, only they don’t play the instruments per se; they just have to sound the sounds with their vocal chords.
#FunFact: Organize online concerts by having different groups perform using the multi-way audio and video feature. It would make for a great recording for later viewing too.
- Vlog Brothers (John and Hank Green)
(Almost any subject)
John and Hank Green are witty, intelligent, well-read and highly informative. They talk a lot about the topics they choose and not one word would be out of context. So you and your students might want to listen in on those videos closely. The concept behind the videos is that the two brothers Vlog for each other. So you might see then take turns to amaze you and your class.
Overall, a refreshingly factual perspective on topics ranging from the day to day ‘Air Travel tips’ and American Debt Crisis to more philosophical ‘What to do with your life’. Here is one video “in which Hank discusses NASA's new Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion space vehicle, which are (unlike the space shuttle) designed exclusively for deep-space missions to places including our moon, the asteroids, and Mars(Source: YouTube Information)”.
The brothers also have another YouTube channel called Crash Course where they teach US History and Chemistry. You might want to check it out too.
#FunFact: Use these videos to Flip your classroom. Also, encourage your students to Vlog for themselves about topics that matter.
- HISHE or How It Should Have Ended
Imagine if the X-men had never split in the first place? What if Macbeth had killed his wife for being over-ambitious? The literary classics as well as the contemporary movies are ever dynamic and subject to change should your imagination or logical reasoning allow. As such, there are a thousand and one ways in which a story could end. And that is exactly what this YouTube channel is doing: telling you how a story SHOULD have ended. Here is a video of how Willy Wonka’s tale should have ended:
For an offline assignment, let your students rewrite the endings of a popular literary piece like Romeo and Juliet or Pride and Prejudice. This activity will stir imagination and give you a chance to understand your learners better.
#FunFact: Let the students play-act the best story.
So what does this post mean? Really?
Sometimes its not even about cracking a joke. Sometimes its all about making a statement about your personality that puts the learners at ease, and assures them that the learning would not be the stereotypical kind. Can we do that? This teacher says YES:
I am an ardent supporter of new ideas in teaching. And in order to achieve a new dawn in learning, it is important that we leave the too accommodating Arcadia of archaic actions and instead instill the immensely important inspiration that is sometimes missing among the learners. I believe that giving a good school education to kids is no less than presenting a bursary to them. And humor is one of the many tools that a teacher could use to bring the kids out of their cloister.
WizIQ and Humorous Teaching
Ideas and technology are like Siamese twins that need only be together to create a sea of opportunities. The best part of online education is that it is not subject to a set of rules and regulations. It is ever dynamic and lets you as a teacher experiment and explore the plethora of possibilities.
WizIQ’s futuristic and cognizant feature set lets teachers flip their classrooms effectively. You can use WizIQ to:
- Store all your content on the Content Library and access or share from anytime, anywhere
- Share funny and informative HD quality videos with your learners
- Create groups within an online classroom to conduct fun activities
- Record your own funnies and post them online for students to view at home
- Supplement previous class recordings as learning material
- Collaborate and interact in real time via the WizIQ Virtual Classroom
The union of humor and online teaching will inspire you as well as your learners. I can but suggest some ideas. But you can open up a whole new door into another dimension of thinking by putting together the wisdom of the ages (i.e. your teaching) and the ways of the present world (i.e. technology).
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