Most children can’t wait to start kindergarten and approach the beginning of school with awe and anticipation. Young students often talk passionately about what they learn and do in school. So why do we see so many students loose this enthusiasm?
Unfortunately, the current emphasis on standardized testing and wrote learning encroaches upon many students’ joy. In their eagerness to raise test scores, too many policymakers presume that students who are laughing, interacting in groups, or being creative with art, music, or dance are not doing real academic work. The results are that some teachers feel pressure to direct over more sedate classrooms with students on the same page in the same book, sitting in straight rows, facing straight ahead.
The truth is that when joy and comfort are scrubbed from the classroom, we distance our students from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Instead of taking pleasure from learning, students become bored, anxious, and anything but engaged. They ultimately learn to feel bad about school and lose the joy they once felt.
My own experience as a teacher has shown the benefits of joy in the classroom. Studies and measurement of brain chemical transmitters reveal that students’ comfort level can influence information transmission and storage in the brain (Thanos et al., 1999). When students are engaged and motivated and feel nominal stress, information flows freely and they achieve higher levels of cognition and make connections. Such learning does not come from quiet classrooms and directed lectures, but from classrooms with an atmosphere of enthusiastic innovation (Kohn, 2004).
Humor is infectious. The sound of boisterous laughter is far more contagious than any cough, or cold. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. In addition to the domino effect of joy and amusement, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use. You always get farther in life with laughter than tears.
Laughter and fun are powerful antidotes to stress, pain, and conflict. It is good for both mind and body. Nothing works faster to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. With the power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a fabulous resource for problem solving, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.
Laughter is good for your health
- Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
- Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies therefore improving your resistance to disease.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and nurturing emotional connection. When people laugh with one another, a positive bond is formed. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment. These behaviors become learned and create a positive atmosphere in the classroom.
Laughter is one of the most effective tools especially when laughing with others. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, energy, and flexibility. Humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. This should also help in avoiding bullying or isolation in the classroom and playground and other school issues.
What can you do to add more fun to your classroom? A familiar method is to sprinkle some humor into the lesson plan and make it entertaining. Students can socialize, feel at home and have effective learning. I don’t believe you have to be afraid to have your students break into laughter.
The underlying goal at the start of every class should be to establish a comfortable environment in which students will feel free to participate in the class activities. Once that’s achieved, the room is on its way to becoming an effective learning environment.
But how do you do it? Jokes and other “fun” will improve the natural feelings of discomfort when a class gathers for the first time. Games and story-telling are also valuable tools. You can break the ice by telling a story, even a self-deprecating one, about yourself. I find my students seem to love these stories the most!
Breaking into a game can be a great way to start a class off and relax your students. The approach is up to you. Choose a method you’re comfortable with and fits your objectives. Fun “is the path, not the objective.
Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too. Engaging our students in laughter and fun will offer a healthier, more meaningful, more successful learning experience. Don’t be afraid to have fun and laugh along with your students. I promise it will go a long way!