Using Humor in Science Instruction for Students with Visual Impairment

Many thanks to Chris Tabb from TSBVI Outreach, and resident jester extraordinaire, for sharing his expertise.  He was the inspiration the for this blog.

The Educational Benefits of Humor

Why do we remember those events in our lives that make us laugh?  Scientists have discovered that there are real physiological changes in the brain that cause us to better remember the "fun and games" of our lives.  Drawing on this, teachers should make use of humor in order to increase both engagement in the classroom and retention of content.

An additional benefit of utilizing humor in the classroom, according to a growing body of research, is better rapport with your students.  Ed Dunkelblau, former president of Assocation for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, said, " Humor builds a learning relationship through the joyful confluence of head and heart."  Teachers who connect with students as people prove to attain better learning outcomes. 

In order for humor in the classroom to improve retention, it is important that the humor be related to content and be appropriate.  Of course, cruel, sarcastic humor should not be employed.  Unrelated humor may be received posititively by students and may increase engagement, but it has not proven to increase retention of the content.  

Students with visual impairment will find humor important as a tool for improved social interaction (an area of the Expanded Core Curriuclum).  Humor proves a valuable ice breaker in new settings and puts sighted peers at ease when interacting with a student with a visual impairment. 

Some teachers are naturally funny, however, others, including myself, may need some effective strategies to use.  The following strategies are just a beginning.  Please also see the resource list.  I have included numerous related websites to allow you to "pun" ish your students with excessive humor. 

Strategies to Incorporate Humor in the Classroom 

  • Incorporate funny items in class assignments, tests, or homework.  
  • Keep a running list of humorous quotes (from students or otherwise) and encourage students to do so as well.
  • Start your class on Mondays with a joke or riddle so that students will look forward to Mondays.
  • Play jokes on your students - kindly, of course.
  • Study humor in a content-appropriate manner.  In science, this might mean learning about the effect of humor on the nervous system. 
  • Laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. 
  • Have students share jokes in class at times when a pick-me-up is needed.

Websites with Science Jokes

General Science Jokes

Space Jokes

Additional Resources

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is a TedxTalk video.




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