Using jokes to teach ESL or ELD is an effective method of teaching grammar, culture, and vocabulary in a way that students will truly enjoy. What teacher doesn’t want their students to have fun while learning.
Teaching Jokes by Giving No Prior Knowledge
There are a couple of different methods for teaching short jokes. The first involves writing a short joke on an overhead projector or a chalkboard and then reading it to your students with no prior explanation of any grammar or vocabulary they would need to understand the joke. For example: A snail walks into a bar and the barman tells him there’s a strict policy about having snails in the bar and so kicks him out. A year later the same snail re-enters the bar and asks the barman “What did you do that for?” (Note: for younger students you may want to change “bar” to “store” and “barman” to “security guard.”)
You will likely be met by blank faces. At this point, let your students ask you questions about the vocabulary and grammar of the joke. As they ask questions, such as “What is a barman?” “What is a policy?” “What does re mean?” You will see their faces light up one at a time until they get the joke. Discourage students from retelling the joke in their native language to their peers until you feel that the joke has been explained as well as possible in English.
Teaching Jokes by Giving Prior Knowledge Beforehand
Another method for teaching short jokes is to provide students with the vocabulary and grammar they need the day before the joke to learn overnight. If you plan on teaching this joke:A teenage girl had been talking on the phone for about half an hour, and then she hung up. “Wow!,” said her father, “That was short. You usually talk for two hours. What happened?” “Wrong number,” replied the girl.
You will want to provide students with the following vocabulary words and phrases the day before: teenage, half an hour, hung up, what happened, and wrong number.
After a couple of joke lessons, students will be sure to learn the words and phrases you assign them because they will want to “get the joke” the next day.
Where to Find Jokes
One of the best websites to find jokes for teaching ESL or ELD classes is on the Internet TESL Journal. Jokes on this site are submitted by ESL teachers who have used the jokes in their classroom already. Joke books found in children’s section of the bookstore are also a source of appropriate jokes for students.