Max Anderson

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sense the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 – 13, especially boys. Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories. Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. He’s also begun a traditional series. Seven books are published, with an additional twenty-nine manuscripts completed. Young readers have reported that reading one of his books is like being in an exciting or scary movie. Visit Max at: Books for Boys Blog, Author Web Site, Video - Captain Jack's Treasure, or My Youtube Videos.

Max Anderson

Humor in Reading and Learning

One of the elements most requested by the editors of middle grade fiction is humor, because humor helps to hold the attention of young readers.

Think back for a moment. Can you remember a teacher who regularly incorporated humor in the classroom? If you do, you’re one of the fortunate ones. I can’t remember that ever happening.

Our son went to a private Christian school until the ninth grade where he tested for an accelerated, college prep academic program in the public school system. From there he attended and graduated from a prestigious university and then their law school. I posed the question to him.

“One teacher I can remember in all those years used humor, and that was my economics professor,” he said.

Since economics was his major, this professor’s use of humor was a welcome relief in an otherwise stressful environment.

Next I asked our daughter. I was especially interested in her response for a couple reasons. She attended Christian schools all the way through high school. If ever there was a place where the best techniques of teaching should be used, it is in our private Christian schools. She enrolled in the College of Education, Early Childhood Program at a top university, known for preparing teachers. Yet she couldn’t recall one teacher in all those years of attending school who incorporated humor on a regular basis.

We have a lot to learn when it comes to the positive, powerful benefits when humor is included in the learning process.

Research shows that laughter and play encourage learning. Humor leads to an increased attention span, and it can help the students as well as the teacher. Today the study of humor in the classroom is finding its way onto more and more college and university campuses with such courses as Using Humor in the College Classroom to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness in “Dread Courses,” and Ten Specific Techniques for Developing Humor in the Classroom. Researchers continue to study humor and its value in the learning process. The conclusions are consistent in their findings that a strong, positive link is formed between a teacher who uses humor, the students’ evaluations of the teacher’s performance, and the statistics measuring students’ learning.

Other studies reveal that humor appears to encourage students to learn because it increases their motivation. These students insist that humor makes learning much more fun. Boredom is reduced in an environment that, almost by its very structure, tends to be tedious. Humor can reduce stress and tension in class, thereby helping students cope with difficult learning situations.

This doesn’t mean a teacher stands before the class, telling jokes all day. Even though an occasional joke might be fine, a teacher can relate a funny story or experience that will help students get the point or remember an obscure fact. A teacher with a natural sense of humor can brighten their students’ day by adding laughter from time to time.

Are you a teacher or homeschool parent? Do you regularly use humor in your class?

Humor alters the chemical makeup of the brain so a child’s ability to focus and retain information increases. Humor enhances creativity and imaginative thinking so that children can test new things in a fun way. Students appreciate a teacher who understands the use of humor as a lighter side of learning. Laughing stimulates both sides of the brain. People get the message quicker and remember it longer.

As one expert puts it, “Humor helps people to relax and makes them more receptive to new thoughts. The barriers go down, and people experience real learning.”

“I often teach seminars,” said another, “and my motto is, if you can’t have fun, why bother?”

“I use humor to assure my students that they are safe, and that I have a positive regard for them,” reports another teacher.

Still another teacher said, “I find the use of humor vital to the classroom and learning environments. I will often flash a cartoon on the overhead. I usually put a cartoon on my exams and I know humor enhances learning for my students.”

Speaking to a group of prospective teachers, an instructor said, “I would like all teacher candidates to be aware of using humor as a direct instructional technique. What we do in life is important, but I think we take ourselves far too seriously. I love watching young children having a good time. When you watch them in a class where the teacher is aloof and distant, you see some very defensive students. If the teacher is having a good time, however, the children are having a good time.”

Our culture often teaches that humor and laughter are a waste of time. “Don’t be silly,” a child may be told in class, or, “Why don’t you grow up?” “Can’t you be serious?”

Some teachers exclude humor from their curriculum because they consider their work too serious for humor. They are concerned that their students might see them as unprofessional or inappropriate. A medical professional responded to my question on humor: “Of all my patients, the ones I see who consistently exhibit no sense of humor at all are teachers.”

I know that funny teachers are out there, and your work is to be applauded. Let this be an encouragement to begin exerting a positive attitude within your circle of influence so that in a few years, teachers using humor in the classroom will be the majority, not the exception. Your students will appreciate it.

The more our society has been directed toward left-brained activities―things logical and linear―the more we have lost sight of the fun and excitement in learning. To combat this, one teacher carried with him a “teaching toolbox” filled with different items he used to represent elements that were essential to learning. The wilder the image, the more likely his students were to remember the concept or fact he wanted them to learn.

It has been primarily experts outside the field of education who have championed the use of humor and its effects within their professions, noting the direct correlation between the physiological and psychological benefits associated with humor and laughter. And yet, all of these professions have their roots in the educational process.

Relating humor in the classroom is not so much an issue of what to teach but how to teach. Humor should be one of many tools used by the teacher. Students are more likely to listen to a teacher they find fun and interesting. They are more likely to feel comfortable in asking questions. Your students will want to be in your classes because of your style.

One teaching expert put it this way. “There is a direct connection between ‘Ha ha,’ and ‘Ah ha.’ And besides, students can’t laugh and snore at the same time.”

As we said in the beginning, publishers of middle grade fiction continue to ask for manuscripts that include a lot of humor. The reason is simple. Kids want to read them.


Terror at Wolf Lake