There is nothing wrong with having a little fun as we learn. One of the advantages with teaching English is there are many different fun and funny things you can do with the language as you teach.
Following are some activities designed to make you and your students laugh, or at least smile, as they become more fluent in the English language.
L: Let Your Students Have Some Laughs While Learning English
Tongue twisters are tough. Tongue twisters are tough. Tongue twisters are tough. Can you say that quickly? The point of tongue twisters is to challenge the pronunciation of the speaker, native speaker or second language speaker. Giving your class some time to practice tongue twisters should help them get a few laughs out of their studies. There are many tongue twisters you can use with an ESL class. If you choose to, you can select a specific tongue twister to supplement activities on a particular sound you are teaching. For example, if you are stressing the difference between /r/ and /l/ here is a simple tongue twister. “Red leather, yellow leather.” Repeat five times quickly. If you are stressing the pronunciation of the w sound that many ESL students struggle with, use “How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?” How about “rubber baby buggy bumpers” when teaching /b/ or “Sally sells sea shells at the sea shore” when distinguishing between /s/ and /sh/. There are limitless tongue twisters available for use in the ESL classroom (see our tongue twister section), and you can choose the ones you will use based on the needs of your students. If you want a real challenge, try having your students read portions of Dr. Seuss’ book Fox in Socks. Whatever you use, make sure your students understand that these are challenging phrases even for native speakers, and assure them that it is okay if they struggle or make mistakes with these silly sayings. Besides, it never hurts to laugh at yourself once in a while!
Even among native speakers of English, humor often does not communicate across cultures, but that is no reason you should not give your class time to share English jokes with one another. The best jokes will be those that tell a story and have an unexpected punch line. Whether your students understand the jokes you have to offer or not, ask them to share some of their favorite jokes from their native languages. They may need to explain the humor to you as you may need to explain English jokes to them, but you will all have fun even just trying to explain the humor to one another.
A whole genre of jokes that work well with ESL students are knock knock jokes. Usually the punch line is a play on words, or a pun. For example, Knock, knock. Who’s there? Olive. Olive who? I love you.
In this case, olive sounds like I love. After introducing this or another knock knock joke, introduce your students to the concept of puns. Give them some examples. You may use egg-cellent or “I think a job as a shoe salesman would be your best fit.” There are websites available whose entire purpose is for puns. Look there for limitless ideas. Then allow your students to share examples that they may have encountered with puns or even share some from their native languages.
Limericks are another funny activity you can do with your students. These may tie into a unit of poetry or some other topic you are teaching, or you can use them in class for a change of pace. Explain to your students that limericks are usually lighthearted and often silly, and that they follow a specific structure and rhyming pattern. Then give your students an example of a limerick.
If you like, use the following.
There once was a girl with a camel
The camel was made of enamel
She ate it up quickly
Then felt rather sickly
And never again ate a mammal
Ask groups of your students to count the number of syllables in each line, and see if they can explain the rhyming scheme.
After they have had enough discussion time, come together as a class and review the structure of a limerick: lines one, two and five have nine syllables each and rhyme with each other while lines three and four have six syllables and rhyme with each other. Then challenge your students either individually or in groups to write their own limericks. Give them time to share with the class and, if age appropriate, to illustrate their poetry.
Games always bring fun to the classroom, and here are two that are sure to have unexpected results. The first is one that has been very popular historically – telephone. Sit your students in a circle and whisper a sentence to the first. That student should then repeat what he heard in a whisper to the next student. The pattern continues around the circle until the last person. The first person should tell the class the original sentence, and then the last student should say aloud what she heard. Students will be amused at the change the sentence underwent as it travelled through the class.
The second game is a writing game but also produces unexpected results. Arrange your class in sets of four. You may want to have them sit in circles or just in the rows of desks or tables. Each person starts with a blank piece of paper and starts a sentence at the top. The sentence should start with “If.” For example, a student might write, “If I could fly…” She then folds over the top of the paper so the next student cannot see what she has written. Each student should then pass the paper to the next student and write the next phrase starting with “then.” A student might write “then I would be king…” Students fold over the tops of their papers and again pass them to the next student who writes a phrase starting with “and.” She may write “and eat lots of ice cream…” Students fold over the tops of the paper for the last time and pass to the final student who concludes the sentence with an “until” phrase: until the sun goes down. Now collect the papers or have each group collect their own and read the sentence as it is written. The result will be nothing you would expect, but may sound something like this: If I could fly, then I would be king and eat lots of ice cream until the sun goes down. The silliness of the completed sentence will entertain your students while giving them practice with the composition of clauses.
Every student benefits from occasional humor in the classroom.
These activities will give your students something to laugh about as they learn English and have them smiling at you and at one another as they think creatively and express their own senses of humor.