Thursday, March 31, 2011

Learning with Laughter



While Mary Poppins espoused a spoon full of sugar to help 'everything' go down, I want to relay a different message:  Laughter works a lot better than medicine.  In my work as teacher and school psychologist, I have found laughter and listening to be the ultimate motivators and catalysts for learning, interacting and for building relationships of all sorts (human relationships, relationships with sports, fears, academic interests, etc.).

Research: A Laughing Matter


  • Laughing is a reaction (often to stress or some cognitive dissonance) which serves as an emotional balancing mechanism.
  • Laughter is believed to be linked with the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that produces endorphins.  Endorphins function as neurotransmitters - sending vital messages to the brain.
  • Laughter is infectious.  When shared, it binds people together.
  • Laughter has been shown to: trigger physical body changes strengthen the immune system, boost energy, diminish pain and protect us from damaging effects of stress.  (It's those wonderful endorphins at work).
  • A growing body of research suggests that when used effectively, laughter can improve student performance by reducing anxiety, boosting participation, and increasing motivation and focus on the material (Zak Stambor, Monitor Staff, June 2006, v37n6, p.62 http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/learning.aspx).  
What we can do at home and at school:  Make learning fun, create opportunities to laugh.  Here are some suggestions:
    Francehorrible.JPGFront Cover
  • My husband was introduced to Shakespeare through the Beatles. They sang and laughed and looked at Shakespeare's influence on modern culture.  Then with increased motivation and memory paths, they jumped head first into Macbeth and Much Ado.
  • Tom Lehrer's New Math is a great introduction to long subtraction.  He also has a great song about base 10 and you see the clip above for chemistry and its elements.  Introduce these at home and school - they're fun.  Kids can make their own videos, comic strips, puppet shows exploring these topics further.
  • There are jokes and joke books for everything.  Use them.  Make your own.  Jokes can be fun and silly - the content can come later.  With the humor, you've started kids thinking and from there, there are no limits!
  • Memorize using song, limericks, and jokes.  My kids learned the state capitals this way - they still sing the song (years later).
  • Creating rhyming jokes is a great way to help kids learn phonics, as well as to help them memorize state capitals, math times tables, etc.
  • Create comic scenes and strips depicting the lighter side on the Dark Ages (Terry Deary did this with his Horrible Histories series), the life of a Monarch, promoting lab safety (or any safety issues), math gone awry (Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith or How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz are great examples of humor and math.)
  • There is also the idea of laughing when sad or upset.  That is harder to do when your child is heartbroken or upset, but hugs and simple laughs can go a long way. Once the intense pain is soothed, then talk about it more rationally providing guidance and support.
  • Finally laughter at the dinner table, when sitting at home, walking, driving to school or clubs is worth the time and effort.
 This is just the tip of the iceberg.  What are some of the things you do to laugh and learn?  How are you silly with your kids?  Please share it with us in your comments.  Feel free to provide helpful links as well.

36 comments:

  1. One thing I love about kids is how easily laughter comes to them. When they laugh, you can't help but laugh along. :)

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  2. This is great ... learning is so much easier when it is fun ... one tends to remember it longer as well. Believe it or not, the first time I heard "The Elements" was on NCIS ... fun to view the full version of it ... Wish my professors had used this method!! :-)

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  3. Great stuff! I love the "new math"! Thanks for stopping by and being so supportive. You have an awesome blog here!

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  4. Meryl, the mere fact that you know about Tom Lehrer only increases my admiration for you... and Rowan Atkinson, in any incarnation, cracks me up.

    I've found that a deep, full cry can do as much for me as a belly laugh. They affect the same muscles in the diaphragm, for me at least. But if you can talk to a child who is in that deeply sad state and get them to a place of laughing about it, good for you. As long as it's not band-aiding a bigger problem, you know?

    The Table of the Elements is like a pinata: Somebody had to take a whack at it with humor, and Tom Lehrer, the professor, did a fine job. Great post! Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/two-k-limericks-abc-weds/

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  5. Loved Mr. Bean's "back to school" clip. Too funny! Thanks for sharing Meryl. I am now following you thanks to Friday Blog Hop, and it would be so nice if you could share the love back on my blog;)
    Also today we have the coolest blog hop there is... no rules just fun and would love you to join in with us at Boost My Blog Friday, where you can meet lots of friends and have a great time:) See you there!
    Happy Friday

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  6. Okay that first video is fantastic...I volunteer in my son's class during math and this is exactly how they teach it! I can figure it out for the 2nd graders but now that my daughter is in 5th...let me just say "Oh my!"

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  7. the new math is great!

    I am following you (suelee1998) from the blog hop, you have a great site. Would you like to follow me back? http://susansdisneyfamily.blogspot.com/
    thank you :)

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  8. Alright- Laugh Out Loud...!!
    Funny and outright humorous.. Thank you for making me go crazy with laughter.. :D

    Hugs xx

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  9. It's quite interesting how many learning techniques there are because people have different ways of interpreting information. Thanks for the laughs!

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  10. Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog!!

    XOXO Andrea

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  11. I have to tell you that I found this great information! Wow!!!! I'm going to look up Horrible Histories. I've never heard of them. My youngest would love it!

    ps Thanks for stopping by Scattered Stones!

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  12. Rowan Atkinson is so funny!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

    Have a great weekend
    Rochelle

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  13. Wonderful blog Meryl. I wish something like this had been around when my kids were growing up. I was reading your post about Mr. Rogers and remembered how much my children loved him, we have many happy memories of sitting together side by side watching 'Mr.Rogers' and all of his puppet friends :D

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  14. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting! Laughing is one of my most favorite hobbies ;)

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  15. I couldn't find the post about the Blog Hop from Friday, so I am leaving my note here....

    BLOG HOPping around - I am now a follower of your blog, wont you also follow me?? ~KM
    Krafty Max Originals

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  16. Great videos! I absolutely love the Periodic Table song. My Organic Chemist husband enjoyed it as well.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm here returning the favor :)

    http://www.growingupgeeky.com/

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  17. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm happy to be your newest follower. You can see more about my book club at www.measuredbytheheart.blogspot.com/p/book-club.html. I'm always taking suggestions for selections. I'm looking forward to getting to know you!

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  18. Laughter - absolutely the best medicine..I saw a show on TV where they practised 'yogic' laughter in India I think..flexing certain facial muscles etc producing the same chemical changes that happen through 'real' laughter..chuckles back to you..Jae :)

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  19. Thanks for coming by A Little Nosh! Love your blog!

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  20. thanks so much for visiting spearmintbaby.com! i am now following back :))

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  21. Thanks for visiting... I am now a new follower. Hope you are having a wonderful week. DiapersintheDesert.blogspot.com

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  22. love your blog...new follower here!!
    http://healthykitchens--healthykids.blogspot.com

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  23. Thank you, thank you, all for your kind words and support. I appreciate it.

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  24. I need to learn how to laugh with my kids. I tend to get too serious and focused on what I'm teaching them that it doesn't end up being so much fun. I'm getting better, though.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm here to return the favor and am now your newest follower.

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  25. Very true and I love those songs by Lehrer. Have subscribed to them in Youtube.

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  26. Wow!!!! You learn something new every day. All my life I have been a good laugher, lots of things make me chuckle and chortle, but I have sat around for hours, days, weeks, years, worrying about the good feeling I had when laughing - was this wrong? Why did laughter make me feel happy? Should I in fact be feeling sad? Now, at last, I can relax and officially enjoy myself, knowing that laughter is scientifically and psychologically approved.
    Whoopee!! Did you get away with teaching your grandmother to suck eggs?

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  27. I LOVE Lehrer! Did you know he may have invented JELL-O shots?
    And laughter IS the best medicine!
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  28. What an awesome post! As a teacher myself, I cannot abide classes without humour...if it isn't fun for me, it sure isn't going to be fun for those having to listen to me drone one!

    Leslie
    abcw team

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  29. I LIKE your L, so entertaining..

    Please come take a peek at the laughters at my page. Thank you!

    PS.. I am now following your blog, would you follow me back too?

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  30. I love those videos hehehe.. My daughter watched the first one with me and she was laughing how fast the guy explains it lol..

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  31. Wonderful post! I have loved Tom Lehr forever. Thank you for all the wonderful laughs and smiles.

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  32. This is such a great post - and I love your blog's whole theme - along the same lines as ours! We're always trying to make learning fun for our kids, but this has made me think more about the laughter aspect. Just today we were doing our times tables, and giggling away when the kids made mistakes, and mixed their numbers up - in amongst all the laughter - were several correct answers they just blurted out between the giggles, without consciously thinking about the answers, surprising themselves even more.

    Love the videos too - they made me smile!

    http://beourbest.blogspot.com/

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  33. Fun post, laughter and music certainly boost learning. I sing things to myself if I'm finding it tricky to memorise, always works. I must give "The Elements" a try.

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  34. There are laughing clubs all over the world. I don't like Mr. bean. (personal)

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  35. Haha, my 9 yr. old son kept on playing the "New Math"...thanks for sharing this.

    Thanks also for the ABC Comment.

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  36. Sounds like a good teaching method. My kids always liked those joke books. :)

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