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It's a laughing matter: Humor in the middle school classroom

1 May 1998


The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer the research question: 1) In what ways does humor in the middle-school classroom affect classroom environment? I broke this question down and looked specifically at how classroom humor is used to: 1) improve student attention; 2) improve student self-esteem; 3) improve student motivation; and 4) ease tension. My research addressing these questions was based on my own questionings as well as the research of many teachers, writers, and psychologists, including Freud. This study took place at a suburban middle school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were seventh graders and two teachers. The teachers taught math and science. Information was gathered through classroom observations as well as teacher interviews and student surveys. In order to protect the participants' rights to privacy, pseudonyms are provided for all participants. After many observations, I began to notice students' levels of attention and motivation in the math and science classes. I watched other classrooms and observed that these levels seemed lower where humor was not employed as often. After conducting the student surveys, it was definitely obvious that the classrooms where humor· was being employed were thought of as a safe and interesting learning environment by the students. Teacher interviews confirmed that classroom control was established largely by using humor. Both teachers felt as though their classrooms were not only fun, but productive.


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