Puns and Riddles in the Classroom: Lesson Ideas

Yesterday, I blogged about using some quizzes in the classroom to raise learner awareness about British Culture.  In fact, quizzes and questionnaires could be used for a variety of different roles.  Today I would like to focus on the use of humour and riddles in the classroom to improve learner perspective whilst learning a foreign language.  Humour can play an important role in the classroom, particularly when interacting with learners.  It maintains and improves rapport, develops motivation as well as lowers the learner’s affective filter.

The first activity today includes getting learners to guess the answers to the following questions in the embedded document.  These questions were inspired by the Internet TESL Journal and their emphasis on jokes and riddles.  Anyhow, the learners are handed the following handout and they then have to think of suitable answers to the questions.  Get learners into pairs and working together.  Once learners have finished, you could get them to compare their answers to the rest of the class and then they have to work together to complete a comprehensive answer list.

The next part of the lesson involves handing out the answers in the form of a Wordle (look at the wordle image above), and getting the learners to link questions with answers, as well as check their own answers.  When I tried this lesson out with my learners, they were very receptive and they worked together and came up with pretty good answers (some correct and some worthy).

One final activity that you could include in the classroom could include dictating the following puns, students write out each joke and get raise learner awareness of double meanings.  The following jokes are some suggestions, with some more available in “Memory Activities in Language Learning” by Bilbrough (p.175):

  1. Two aerials got married.  The wedding was pretty bad, but the reception was great.
  2. One thousand pairs of underpants have been stolen.  The police are making a brief enquiry.
  3. Did you hear about the man who lost the whole left side of his body?  He’s all right now.
  4. What is the prisoner’s favourite punctuation mark?  The full stop – it marks the end of his sentence.
  5. The police have caught two men drinking battery acid.  They will soon be charged.
  6. Why did the man give up tap dancing?  Because he kept falling in the sink.
  7. Did you hear about the fire on the campsite?  The heat was in tents.
  8. Why is it a problem if you get sick at the airport?  It could be a terminal illness.
With my experience of teaching South Koreans, jokes seem to be rather a selective subject and some of the puns or jokes might not work with each class.  Nevertheless, how do you use jokes in the classroom?  Do you try to get learners to create their own jokes?  Are jokes an important part of English culture?  Can jokes be told across cultures?

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