Learning English as a Foreign Language with Laughter

Laughter, the Best English Language Learning Tool
see full text online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/dec/05/tefl2

When asked, most experienced language teachers will readily admit that they encourage humour and laughter in their classrooms and plan it into their lessons. So what is the role of unplanned and spontaneous humour – moments when the whole class momentarily erupts in laughter before returning to the task at hand?

In the early days of each course, when they meet their class for the first time, language teachers convey many hidden messages through their body language, their overall demeanour and the manner in which they address their students. One clear message (usually implicit) relates to the kind of atmosphere they wish to foster in their classroom.

In order to develop a spirit of informality within their classes such teachers attempt to reduce the social distance between themselves and their students by behaving in friendly and approachable ways. They smilingly encourage students to speak and applaud their efforts, being supportive when errors are made.

They may sometimes demonstrate in a humorous way that they themselves find unfamiliar sounds difficult to pronounce. If they make an error on the board (as most teachers do from time to time) they may make a quick quip to show that they are not embarrassed – and to demonstrate that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.

When it is appropriate to pull individuals into line, teachers tend to do so firmly but with a light touch, returning to the business of the lesson as quickly as possible. (By disciplining students with humour, teachers reduce the risk of alienating potentially tricky individuals.)

Language learners quickly absorb the message that their teacher welcomes spontaneous laughter within the classroom (provided it is of the supportive 'laughing with' and not of the destructive 'laughing at' kind). Sensing that their teacher has given them permission to laugh, many classes start to relax and to behave in readily responsive ways.

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Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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