26 January 2010

Humor in the Classroom

Humor in the Classroom

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I begin each class with a joke (a remnant of my Catholic high school teaching days when one started off each class with a prayer -- a practice which has two beneficial effects: getting students into a different frame of mind and marking clearly the beginning of class).

Anyway, I am teaching an ESL class for the first time this semester and, even before I began my favorite opening-of-the-semester joke, I realized my joke wasn't going to go over well:

Two musicians are walking down the street.

One says to the other, "Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?"

The other replies, "That was no piccolo; that was my fife."

I have to explain a Henny Youngman allusion to American college students, so I shouldn't have been surprised that international students would be even less likely to see the humor (limited as it may be to most people). My explanation of the lineage of the joke didn't seem to help.

I'm going forward nonetheless. What better way to see how a language can work than through its jokes?

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