Humor in the Classroom – More A-HA with More HAHA

Generating A-HA moments with HAHA moments

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Really do you get more AHA moments when you have more HAHA moments?  “Well-planned, appropriate, contextual humor can help students ingrain information,” explains Garner, who in his introduction to psychology course uses TV programs like the audition episodes from “American Idol” to demonstrate such psychological concepts as self-handicapping and selection bias” (Stambor, 2006).

“Professors’ jobs are to educate, not to entertain,” says Shatz. “But if humor can make the learning process more enjoyable, then I think everybody benefits as a result.  And the benefits may not be limited to academic performance, according to Berk in “Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator.” In the book, he suggests that humor’s primary psychological role is as an emotional response or buffer to relieve physical stress. Moreover, laughter has been shown to stimulate a physiological effect that decreases stress hormones such as serum cortisol, dopac and epinephrine” (Stambor, 2006).

In light of these ideas, and the temptation that perhaps everyone could enjoy school a bit more, I offer a list of activities from our archives that seek to use humor to enhance education.

**You will notice that a lot of these activities include physical movement.  Now I know these are college age students, however, even older students start to zone out when sitting for too long, so these exercises serve several purposes in getting people re-engaged with their surroundings, waking them up and making them pay attention….. and learn something!!  Just remember that by applying limits, parameters and guidelines you can keep the humor focused on the material.

You can always fall back on having students try to write in a humorous way such as:

· Write an advertisement for a body part / physiological pathway or process: film or present it live.

· Write a limerick about parts or function.

Or try these ideas listed by system / category:

Lymphatic/Immunity Activities Sectioncheck out #2 – lots of potential for learning and humor as students film battles between action figures representing immune system antagonists and protagonists.

Acid/Base Balance Section – Osmosis – Activity #1 – Silliness includes laughter.  Students acting as molecules on either side of a semi-permeable membrane.  If the actual activity does not elicit laughter, post a video of the action speeded up.

Circulatory SystemActivity #1 & #2 – A literal walk through the circulatory system having stations of students representing the stops along the way and red or blue balloons or papers to represent the red blood cells.

Digestive System – Okay, face it the digestive system is rife with humor no matter what you do.  This is a class taken by pre-med, nursing and biology students, right?  Activities 3 & 4 offer lots of opportunity for guided humor in relation to the digestive system.

Integumentary SystemActivity #3 – This can be done by you in class, or with assistants who fill in voices or provide ideas to narrate the provided video.  Encourage humor – or have students make their own voiceovers to the video and post on Blackboard.  You should probably give reminders about appropriate content.

Muscular SystemActivities 1 & 5 – both involve linking dance with learning muscle names.  Nothing too fancy – just fun with lots of potential for kinesthetic learning, and again, a break from sitting and listening.

Reproductive SystemActivities 2, 3 & 5 – not that you need as much help increasing interest in this topic… but again humor will help learning and can also ease tension if some folks are uncomfortable with the subject matter.  Reproducing with the Stars just might be syndicated soon 😉  Get your game on now!

Respiratory SystemActivity 1 – Buffer Ball teaches about respiratory acidosis and just might be an excuse to get outside for a little bit for more space! Alternatively limit the number of people playing at one time and have others watch or video the fun.

Skeletal SystemActivity 1 – Hey Macarena!  Change the words (or have students change the words) of Macarena to make a dance that touches and names bones.

Urinary SystemActivity 4 – Being a Nephron – another chance to stand up and move just a little bit.  Encourage participants to look and sound like what they imagine their part of the filtration of urine looks or sounds like.

Laugh & Learn!

Stambor, Z., (2006). How laughing leads to learning: Research suggests tha humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that help students learn.  American Psychological Association: Monitor on Psychology, 37 (6), p. 62.


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