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  • Make ‘Em Laugh

    The best bit of advice I got from another teacher during my own training was “Your classes have to be fun.  If they’re fun, the students will keep coming.”  Very simple, very straightforward, and very true. Since then I have always tried to make my classes extremely entertaining.  As a result I have had kids and adults fall out of their seats laughing, fellow teachers look at me as though I was cuckoo, Thai teachers look at me like I was from another planet, and had minor pains in my cheeks from smiling and laughing so much.  

    If you want to be an ESL teacher, you have to be prepared for the fact that the students you are trying to teach don’t speak the same language as you.  That’s the point of the whole thing.  But humor and laughter is usually something you need good communication skills, on both sides, to get across.  There can be a lot of levels in humor.  So making students who don’t really understand you have a good time can be a challenge.  Here are a few suggestions to help cross this hurdle:

    1.        Don’t take yourself seriously.  At all.  Loosen up.  Relax.
    2.        Overact.   
    3.        Know your audience
    4.        You should have fun too.  Connect with your inner kid.
    5.        Remember what that age was like for you.  Remember what was fun, what you enjoyed, and what
               you   would have enjoyed.
    6.        When in doubt – dance!

    It takes time to achieve laughter in the classroom.  Don’t expect it to happen right away.  Tip number 3 is “Know your audience”.  You won’t know your students until you meet them and have worked with them for a while.  Once you know what makes them giggle, you’re ready to be entertaining.  Until then, here are a few tips to carry you through:

    1. Identify the class clown or the loudmouths.  Call them up to the front and let them act things out for you.  They want the attention so give it to them.  Many times they will make everyone laugh,  either at them or with them.  In either case, it benefits you.
    2. Activities and games can be fun.  In my classroom we don’t play that many games because we do a lot of fun activities.  Getting up and moving around can be fun.  For example, the target is “Where are you going?”  You make each corner of your classroom a different location (or, even better, have the students come up them).  Then, one at a time, the students get up and walk to a corner.  “Where are you going?  I am going to the zoo.”  Once they reach the zoo, they have to pretend they’re at the zoo.  If necessary, go to that corner and act it out with them.  “Look, a monkey!  Look, a tiger!  A snake, ahhhh!”
    3. Laughing is fun.  Don’t be afraid to laugh and smile in the classroom.  It will put everyone at ease, including you.  If you see something that is funny, go ahead and laugh.  Enjoy yourself and the students will have a good time too.

    The longer you teach the easier this becomes.  It can be difficult at first to overcome your own tendencies to be reserved and a bit nervous in front of the classroom.  Pretty soon, however, you’ll be dancing, acting like a monkey, making funny faces, and doing whatever you can to make the class a fun environment.  And that is the way it should be.