Thursday, July 2, 2009

Humor in the Classroom

Humor can lighten the mood in any setting, but in a library-instruction session it might be particularly unexpected and well received. Unfortunately, if other librarians are like me, humor does not come naturally. I read an article a few months ago on some librarians who endeavored to study humor in the hopes that they could be funnier in the classroom. They attended workshops and read books. [Yes, I know, I need to look up the citation to that article.] If I remember correctly, they concluded that they could not succeed as stand-up comediennes, but maybe they could make library instruction more palatable for students. Anyone can show a cartoon or a funny clip and get some chuckles. Students seem to appreciate that attempt at humor. They also said that just keeping your eyes open to humor can keep you aware of golden opportunities for a laugh.

Don't get me wrong. We do not want to entertain students just to be entertaining, rather humor facilitates learning. It can pull them back to the here and now if they are losing focus. It can direct them engage more willingly with the activities you have set in place during your instruction. Of course, it can go too far, but a few well-timed jokes or humorous observations during a demonstration can work wonders in garnering student attention.

Here's my one lame joke during the introduction to our catalog: "When it refers to 'Status' it is not asking if the book is married or not, but it's asking if it is available inside the Library." Yeah, pretty lame, huh. : )

At any rate, I picked up a book by Patrick McManus not long ago titled: The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor. I used to think that I didn't pick up on humor very well in books, and I was probably right. I took things very seriously. Things have to be spelled out to me, like "This is a humorous book, don't forget to laugh." No matter how much I tried to keep a straight face, Patrick McManus succeeded in making me grin from ear to ear and laugh. He provides some great tips for writing humorous pieces, and he includes some great sample stories from his years of writing for magazines.

2 comments:

rosey said...

thanks for posting...

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Rosey
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Spencer said...

Thank you for commenting here and on several other posts. Hope you found them to be useful.