Using Jokes to Teach Language Skills

Do your kids love jokes?  My first graders LOVED telling me jokes.  First grade seems to be the time kids begin to understand jokes and what makes them funny.  

My own 2nd grader really has a good handle on jokes now and even makes up his own.  But many of the more complicated jokes we have to explain.  About a year ago, when he was in first grade, I remember his reading us jokes from a joke book he had gotten for Christmas.  Several of them we were explaining to him, because he didn't quite understand what was so funny.

It was then that I had an idea for a group of lessons!  We could use jokes to learn different language and grammar skills in the classroom!  Now that I am homeschooling him for 2nd grade, we have started doing "Funny Fridays" and learning some jokes.  Here are the routines we use for learning language and grammar skill through jokes and puns.

What Skills Can Be Taught Through Jokes?

Comedians are extremely high in linguistic intelligence and it's easy to know why when you think about the language skills you have to know to understand and tell jokes.  Jokes are packed FULL of so many language skills like...

  • homonyms
  • homophones
  • similar sounding words (helping with phonemic awareness and phoneme differentiation)
  • metaphors
  • idioms
  • academic vocabulary
... and much more!

Whole Group Joke Telling

The first thing we do is go through the joke slides together.  I show the first slide.

We use think-pair-share to quietly think of what the answer might be, then whisper share with our carpet partners.  Then I have a few kids share their answers and tell if they agree.

Then, we show the answer slide.

We check to see if anyone got the correct answer.  Then, we talk about what might be so funny about this joke.  I ask, "Do you get it??" and have some kids explain why they think it's funny.  Most of the time someone will get it, but I've had a few they didn't get.  

If no one gets it, we go on to the last slide. (And we still go over this slide together even when someone explains it.)

The last slide reinforces the language skill we're working on, like homophones, over and over so that kids get better at figuring out the jokes as we go along.

Each set has 10 jokes that we go over as a whole group.

Optional Small Group Joke Telling

These digital slides are also available in small printable cards.  We used this for my son this year as we are homeschooling (thanks, Covid).  He was going on a road trip with Dad and I sent him this ring of joke cards to practice and go through with Dad in the car!

The card ring is also great to take on the go... bathroom breaks, outside learning, stations and more!

Independent Practice

After we introduce the jokes whole group with the slides or in a small group with the ring of cards, I have the kids practice finding the language skill in the jokes independently.

The work page has three jokes.  Usually one is a repeat from our whole group and at least 2 are new ones for them to read, locate the skill word(s) that make the joke funny and then illustrate the multiple meanings or implied meanings that make the joke funny.

My 2nd grader absolutely LOVES our funny fridays now!

You can find the slides, small joke cards, and printables in each joke resource.  Here's a free sample to try first and the bundle!

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