HUMOR COMPREHENSION AND ENJOYMENT IN THE CLASSROOM: THE CASE OF CONVERSATIONAL JOKES IN SITCOMS
Humor has been frequently used in the classroom to improve student engagement and attention (Berk, 2002), increase positive attitudes to learning materials (Özdoğru & McMorris, 2013), reduce test anxiety (Berk & Nanda, 2006; Deffenbacher, Deitz, & Hazaleus, 1981; Yoder, 1989) and increase learning (Banas, Dunbar, Rodriguez, & Liu, 2011; Garner, 2006). In the foreign language classroom, sense of humor has been correlated with increased performance in tests (Swanson, 2013). However, humorous strategies have to be understood by students in the foreign language if they are to achieve their positive effects. In this study we assess linguistic humor comprehension of intermediate English language students and try to identify where linguistic humor understanding is disrupted in joke comprehension.
25 students (15 male, 10 female) enrolled in a second language course in a private school participated in the study. They had never spent more than one month in an English-speaking country.
The jokes were played through a classroom projector in the middle of a 60 minute class session. 2 jokes were played each day in 5 different days, and a questionnaire was administered to the students to assess their understanding of the joke and the degree of enjoyment they derived from them. A Likert scale was used to assess degree of enjoyment and understanding, and a series of qualitative questions were used to collect information about comprehension problems.
Students reported to find the conversational jokes amusing (63% percent ticked 4 or more in the Likert scale), although individual differences were found for each individual jokes. As for degree of understanding, 45% indicated that they understood the text well (i.e. 4 in the Likert scale) or quite well (i.e. 5 in the Likert scale). In the qualitative questions, the jokes which were less understood included difficult or unknown vocabulary for their level or cultural references which were not familiar to students.
The majority of students understand and enjoy the jokes well in these subtitled jokes. Nevertheless, comprehension problems need to be addressed before introducing real humor samples in the classrooms in order to increase their effects on student learning, anxiety and motivation.
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