Sunday, February 24, 2008

How Using Comedy Can Help to Boost Your English Language Learners Performance


An Interesting Case Study

In a research case study at the Jefferson Institute in Washington, D.C., a group of college students was given a problem solving task. The students were divided into two groups. One group listened to comedy tapes for ten minutes prior to being given the problem solving task. The other group got nothing prior to being given the same problem solving task.

The results?

From the group that received nothing prior to the task only 20% solved the problem.

From the group that listened to the comedy tape more than 80% solved the problem!

Interesting, isn’t it? Although almost everyone enjoys a good laugh now and then.

The Comedy Format

This seems to work using a variety of input modes. The input comedy can be in the form of listening to audio tapes or Cds. Reading funny riddles and jokes or other comedy in writing seems to be effective also. The effectiveness of comedy videos, whether TV or other video (visual) format is still under study and debate as additional factors are then introduced. I’m testing the use of short audio-visual segments prior to intensive input sessions and exams for the relative effectiveness of using comedy. So far, the results have been promising.

Another form of comedy input worth mentioning is the teacher. If the teacher can slip in a good, funny story, anecdote or even a mild joke or two it often seems to serve the same purpose of having a positive effect on the learners.

Where such is possible, you might also consider posting a short comic strip or panel in the class room, on a board in the teacher’s room or classroom, even sending one attached to a class e-mail or online class posting site. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why these shouldn’t have some positive effect as well.

Why Not ...

Why don’t you start looking through your favorite comic strips for a few especially humorous ones that might even be teaching – learning related? You could post these prominently to be read by your learners or other teachers. Look for humorous essays, articles and editorials too. Many are available online and from local newspapers, magazines or printed publications. I actually subscribe to having a daily comic strip delivered to my e-mail inbox each day and eagerly look forward to what the day’s quip will be. If you’ll try inserting a bit of comedy into your class routine (and your life) each day, at the very least, it’ll help brighten your day and that of many others, including your learners. As the studies show, it can even help to boost your English language learners’ performance.


Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning and English language teaching texts used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

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