When I was studying Tesol, I was asked to think about what kind of teaching style I would personally strive for. I had little idea about how I would teach, but I knew that I wanted to create a classroom atmosphere that was relaxed and as less stressful as possible. I think this stemmed from my own experience in school. Specifically, I remember becoming upset in math class, because everyday we did a quick fire test with 100 questions and I was not fast enough to answer them. Feeling under pressure, I realized, was not conducive to learning, and definitely did not create a relaxed atmosphere.
When I started teaching however, I discovered that my ideal relaxed classroom was a tad unrealistic. The students were very energetic (in both good and bad ways), and getting them to pay attention and participate became the only priority.
The strategies and tactics I studied in my TESOL course went out the window, except for humour. When all else failed it was always possible to make the class funny, and that went a long way in creating a less serious classroom. For example, I used a game called “Who is This?” which involves creating a person from nothing, starting with their name, age, and hobbies, then giving them an appearance. This activity is good because it combines a lot of language topics used to describe a person. However, I’ve found that students become instantly more interested when humour is involved. If students are choosing ‘normal’ answers, I’ll change an answer to something silly (from 10 to 100 years old for example) and the students will get excited because they realize that they can create a funny character. The activity was good, but only humour made them want to participate.
Humour not only makes a class or activity more interesting, but it also eases the stress that students may feel about learning. Pronouncing something wrong for instance can be a funny moment as opposed to just a mistake, which eases the pressure to be right all the time. Trying to make a class funny became a way to create a relaxed and stress free classroom.