Humor in the classroom

A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Brief Description 

Using humor in the classroom can:
  • Increase student interest in course content and the overall class.
  • Decrease a student's stress and anxiety.
  • Have a positive impact on student motivation.
  • Build stronger social connections between students as well as students and the instructor.
  • Improve students' ability to recall information and enhance test scores.
  • Improve student attendance. 
  • Have a positive impact on student evaluations of instructors.

Examples of how you can incorporate humor into teaching 

  • Utilize humorous readings and articles in your class (e.g., Dave Barry's Year in Review). 

  • Storytelling can be a powerful way to engage students and humor can often be woven or intertwined into stories. 

  • Use appropriate humorous images, cartoons, jokes and videos to incorporate humor into a class.

  • If you are comfortable doing so, poke fun at yourself every so often. 

  • Harness humor from students. Many of our students are incredibly witty and funny. Ask students to share personal stories or examples of funny things related to what is being covered in class, some will. Sometimes students make hilarious off-hand comments or remarks during lectures that only a small number of other students can hear. If appropriate, and you are comfortable doing so, share these comments with the rest of the class. They are often very funny. 

Tips to use humor in the classroom 

  • Don't try to force the use of humor or do things you are uncomfortable with simply to attempt to be funny. 

  • Be careful not to offend students when using humor. What people find to be humorous is highly personal and subjective.

  • Utilize humor multiple times throughout a class period. Sometimes instructors like to open a class with something humorous to get students attention and set a positive tone early, then proceed to lecture for 50 or 55 minutes straight. Intentionally using humor every 8-10 minutes can help re-engage students and keep them interested in course content. 

  • Don't be afraid to try new things. New pictures, stories or videos in an attempt to incorporate humor into class. Keep what works, discard what doesn't. 

  • Incorporate a variety of activities and demonstrations in your class. Though not always funny, they can be fun and amusing. Fun and amusing are synonyms of humor. 


  • Garner, R. (2006). Humor in pedagogy. How ha-ha can lead to aha! College Teaching. Vol 54 (1) p 177-180.
  • Hackathorn, J., Garczynski, A., Blankmeyer, K., Tennial, R. & Solomon, E. All kidding aside: Humor increases learning at knowledge and comprehension levels. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Vol 11 (4), p 116-123. 

Udermann, B (2015). Humor in the classroom. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from