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Humour for Learning

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Humour for Learning An Article including one or two mediocre jokes, some thoughts about humour in the classroom and the neurological origins of a good laugh.

Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain. 
Edward De Bono

…be assured, the German sense of humour not only exists, it actually flourishes, albeit in a form we are ill-equipped to recognise.  
Stewart Lee

Humour: classroom learning essential or frivolous risky indulgence?

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Humour Relationships
A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the 
Emergency services. He gasps to the operator: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: “OK, now what?”


This joke, according to Professor Richard Wiseman, is the world’s funniest ; it has global appeal to all age groups. But regional cultural diversity is reflected in the choices of other countries:

Two weasels are sitting on a bar stool.  One starts to insult the other one.  He screams, "I slept with your mother!"  The bar gets quiet as everyone listens to see what the other weasel will do.  The first again yells, "I SLEPT WITH YOUR MOTHER!"  The other says, "Go home dad you’re drunk." (England)

A general noticed one of his soldiers behaving oddly. The soldier would pick up any piece of paper he found, frown and say: “That's not it” and put it down again. This went on for some time, until the general arranged to have the soldier psychologically tested. The psychologist concluded that the soldier was deranged, and wrote out his discharge from the army. The soldier picked it up, smiled and said: “That's it.” (Germany)

Why do ducks have webbed feet? To stamp out fires. Why do elephants have flat feet? To stamp out burning ducks. (Belgium)


Humour provokes laughter and amusement. Sometimes both. Unless it’s Belgium. It is generally linguistic, physical or visual but can take any other form that has a symbol system (music, for example). Having theories of humour risks killing the butterfly; its value dies when it’s pinned to a board for analysis. But humour does allegedly perform important social, physiological and psychological functions and scientific study can confirm its worth. 

Most humour exploits our natural pattern recognition ability. Neural hardwiring, genetic hand-me-downs and life experience combine to give us expectations. We learn quickly to anticipate the next steps in a sequence whether it’s a story, a sentence, an order of movements or an image. Humour is the unexpected next step. We are surprised when things turn out differently and receive the evolutionary reward of ‘feeling good’ (for having spotted an unforeseen event)  . 

Two distinct brain systems fire up for comedy: The first of these, an ‘involuntary’ or ‘emotionally driven’ system, involves the amygdala, thalamic/hypo‐ and subthalamic areas and the dorsal/tegmental brainstem. The second, ‘voluntary’ system originates in the premotor/frontal opercular areas and leads through the motor cortex and pyramidal tract to the ventral brainstem.

That would be some of the bits in the middle and some more bits over the top and at the front. Obviously should some or all of these bits be damaged, resting or removed then <insert name of colleague with no apparent sense of humour> will need additional CPD. 

Not sure if that joke worked for you. 


Related Resources:

Comedy & Learning

Humour Think Sheet

Surprise Thinking

Surprise Thinking PowerPoint

Tips for Classroom Humour

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