Four Ways to Use Laughter in Your Schools and Instruction

By: | 03/25/2022
Category: Instruction

Laughter can help students learn. Seriously! Read on to learn more about the research-proven benefits of using laughter to improve your instruction, create connections, and foster classroom community.

Picture someone laughing—seriously laughing—at something. What does their body look like? What does their face look like? How are you feeling just picturing that person laughing? Yes, laughter is contagious!

The science of laughter is the subject of lots of contemporary research, though there’s still plenty of research to do. Laughter has been proven to decrease stress and increase endorphins (i.e., feel-good hormones). Early research has also found that laughter increases social bonds among strangers.

In a 2017 article titled “When Sharing a Laugh Means Sharing More: Testing the Role of Shared Laughter on Short-Term Interpersonal Consequences,” researchers Laura Kurtz and Sara Algoe found that when study participants reported more shared laughter—compared to unshared laughter—they experienced positive emotions toward each other and fewer negative emotions during shared interactions. Participants who shared laughter also stated that they saw their fellow participants as similar to themselves, which increased their connection with one another.

Laughter can also be a very powerful tool for learning and improving retention. I know from my own experience that this is true. When I was a senior in high school taking AP Calculus, the content was very rigorous and took a lot of focused brainpower to understand. My teacher knew that, and she was an expert at incorporating laughter and movement into her instruction. For one tricky concept, she had us stand up and act out “sine, cosine, tangent” with movement and sound. It not only broke up the taxing work, but it also made lessons fun and memorable. I still remember what I learned that day.

Laughter can serve as a classroom tool that you can use to help students (and yourself) feel safer, increase positive hormones that lead to a willingness to learn, and calm the overactive brains of students who’ve experienced trauma. Many educators, presenters, actors, and speakers have learned how to use humor to help people lean in, learn, and be more engaged.

In fact, I’m going to give you something to help you better remember this blog: me attempting (and failing) to scale an obstacle course.

A short video clip showing Danielle Sullivan at indoor obstacle course.

Now that you’re giggling, here are a few ways to include more laughter in your life and classroom.

Tell a Joke

Ask your students and/or staff to send you their favorite jokes, then start each meeting or class with one of them! Here are a few to start you off:

What do you call a boomerang that won't come back?

A stick.

Why are sports stadiums so cool?

They are filled with fans!

What do you call a bear with no teeth? 

A gummy bear.

Why do beets always win?

They are un-BEET-able!

What is the shortest month?

May. It has three letters.

Laughter Diaries

Have students create “laughter diaries.” For one week, ask them to record things that make them laugh. Then, you can have fun on a Friday sharing some funny experiences. You can also have “funny things that happened” sharing events throughout the year.

Silly Smile

Have a smiling contest. In this activity, students smile at one another, and the first person to laugh wins . . . or is out and the remaining players must keep smiling without laughing. You get to choose the rules. Choose whatever helps to keep the laughter alive!

Freeze Face

This is a game you can play if you are teaching or working remotely. Everyone has seen someone’s camera freeze during video chats, right? It’s never a pretty picture. Everyone ends up looking up the unfortunate person’s nose until their computer unfreezes. The goal of this game is to have everyone make their best “freeze face” and hold it for five seconds. The last person to laugh wins!

Want more information about educator self-care, well-being, and stress management?

Download the complete professional paper, The Connection Cure: Why Educators Need Balance, Laughter, and Community More Than Ever, on our website.

Read Full Paper
Teacher and students sitting on the floor.

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