Teach Your Kids to Write Halloween Jokes October 26 2010

There are many Halloween jokes out and about, many of them groan-worthy as the punchline hits your ear. Some examples include:

  • What do you call a witch who lives at the beach?
    A sand-witch.
  • Where does a ghost go on Saturday night?
    Anywhere where he can boo-gie.
  • What is a vampires favorite holiday?

Would you believe me if I told you that these jokes can actually play an important part in your students' reading, writing and speaking skills?

Why Write  Jokes?

I'm a big believer in the power of laughter and using humor in the classroom, and I try to use some form of humor each day. If I can get kids laughing, then I know they are engaged. Because laughter is an emotional response, I also know that kids are making an emotional connection with the information, which builds memory. And memory leads to retention of information.

To be able to write jokes, kids need to have access to prior knowledge. In the first joke above, you have to know how "sandwich" is usually spelled and that sand is part of beach living in order for the joke to be funny. Writing jokes encourages your students to use what they already know in new and different ways. They also need to make others laugh, which is considerably more difficult.

What is a Joke, Anyway?

I took a stand-up comedy class last summer, and learned that much of joke-telling has to do first with joke-writing.

Writing jokes is a lot like writing poetry - you have to get a big idea into as few words as possible. The set-up to the punchline can't be long and drawn-out, or you lose your audience. The set-up can't be too short or vague, because the punchline needs to be the surprise that makes us laugh. This can be tricky.

Jokes also follow a loose structure. A simple joke is made up of three elements:

  • The Set-Up
  • The Punchline
  • The Tag

The jokes mentioned above are build according to this structure, except that none of them have tags. The tags aren't necessary, but can add another dimension to your joke. Take this one for example:

The Set-Up - Why did the headless horseman go into business?
The Punchline - He wanted to get ahead in life.
The Tag - It's not like he could look back and regret his actions.

To start with, it's probably a good idea to emphasize the set-up and punchline portion of the joke.

The Lesson Plan

A lesson about writing jokes is sure to be a hit with the kids in your classroom.

  1. First, introduce the idea of jokes to your kids (this won't be difficult). For this lesson plan, the subject is Halloween jokes. Use the jokes above or the ones from this post about Halloween Riddles.
  2. After laughing together at the jokes, ask your kids what makes these jokes funny. Write a list of their ideas on the board or on chart paper.
  3. Have your kids write down the structure of a joke, focusing first on the Set-Up and the Punchline.
  4. Before giving them time to write their own jokes, discuss with your kids that their ideas need to be appropriate for your classroom.
  5. Have kids share their jokes!

When kids are sharing, I like to have them stand up at the front of the class with a microphone (real or fake) to get an idea of what it's like for comedians to practice their performances. This may also give the kids a healthy respect for the great job you do at the front of the classroom each day!