The venerable Mayo Clinic confirms that laughter offers many benefits, including short-term stress relief, increased oxygen intake, and release of those magical endorphins. There are long-term benefits, too. You can find a brief summary here.
Nearly a decade ago, a cover story in the American Psychological Association’s web page confirmed the benefits of laughter in the college classroom. You can read the entire story here, but I’ll tempt you with one interesting finding:
“In addition to the psychological and physiological benefits of creating a fun, relaxed classroom, students often perceive that they learn more with droll professors, according to a 1999 Communication Education (Vol. 48, No. 1, pages 48-62) article by Wanzer.
Wanzer also found that students perceived witty instructors as being more competent communicators and more responsive to students’ needs than dry instructors. However, Wanzer also found limits to humor:
‘Students don’t necessarily want Jerry Seinfeld as their instructor,” she says. “They want appropriate humor that is relevant, lightens the mood and makes the information memorable.'”
But what if you’re not really all that “droll?” And what if your subject is, shall we say, a bit dense?
Cute babies to the rescue. The internet is full of ’em, in both human and nonhuman form. With a bit of imagination, your internet-surfing couch time can be transformed into sweet relief for your students. Bing and Google both offer an endless stream of cute baby memes, and imgur.com has some dandies as well. (Warning: Imgur is not for the easily offended.) Sharing these finds has become something of a family passion. Apparently they work in a variety of presentations.
Here are a few images that I’ve used in my classes to relieve some of the tedium.
To accompany a thought-provoking question:
After a real scorcher of a diagram illustrating something complicated:
When asking a question that I hope everyone can answer: