Jokes

Someone recently posted somewhere about having "Jaja Jueves". I like this idea, and have stolen it. It has made its way into my crude-yet-slowly-becoming-refined weekly schedule that I dream of one day nailing down. This week Jaja Jueves happens on Friday. So goes the life of a veteran block-schedule teacher trying to assimilate to 50 minute periods. Yes, even in late April.

Several years ago, I think in Lisle, Illinois for NTPRS, I attended Bryce Hedstrom's session on telling jokes in the TPRS classroom. I soon after acquired a copy of Bryce's excellent book Jokes For Spanish Class and it stayed right on my desk for some time. I loved to eat up a class period by telling a joke the way Bryce taught me how... first TPRing the unknown words, doing some PQA with new or less-acquired words and chunks, and then telling the joke slowly with lots of questions embedded in the telling, often with actors. This was a huge development for my teaching!

After some time getting more comfortable with this process thanks to what I learned from Bryce, I began personalizing the jokes. I would get the class to help me build on the basic fictional character, embellish the dialogue, and suggest alternative locations (if they did not impede the direction and punch-line of the joke). I was trying to blend joke-telling with story-asking.

This year the majority of my attempts at telling jokes have more resembled storytelling, or what a joke might sound like beyond the confines of the classroom, without the copious comprehension checks and circling questions. Usually the joke-telling lasts no more than 5 minutes. I have found also that I prefer to lightly act the parts of the characters myself in order to engage the audience and support the message, and remove the burden of managing actors. (Good thing about jokes is that it's fairly easy to keep your audience listening, and fairly obvious at the end whether you've been comprehensible or not.)

Then we read it together on the overhead, as in Step 3 of TPRS. This not only provides the literacy enforcement, but also gives an extra repetition of the story. I read the joke aloud in a similar tone with which I previously told it, while the students follow along with the text. Fortunately for Spanish teachers, if you have Bryce's or Bryan's (see below) book of jokes, you don't have to prepare the reading yourself.

I recently picked up Bryan Kandel's 300 Chistes book on TeacherspayTeachers. I have a feeling this book will not be leaving my desk for the rest of the school year. At least part of my prep the last few weeks has been spent browsing and often laughing out loud at the gems Bryan has compiled and translated into fairly simple Spanish. While reading, I keep my eyes peeled for jokes that use language my kids will understand and that ideally include a word or two that's fairly new to them as of late.

And, If I've got certain vocabulary in mind that I want to introduce or reinforce, I use the search function as illustrated below (this is Preview, the program my Mac uses to open the document). Sometimes this is preferable for me, as it allows me to narrow the search a bit and focus on a specific word or two that we are throwing around that week. It also makes me feel like a bit of a super-sleuth, tracking down a certain word amidst thousands with the click of a button.

(My notes in red)

Search function in Preview for Kandel's Jokes Book

As you've probably noticed, telling jokes for me the last several years has been quite the fun adventure, and the way I approach them has evolved significantly, thanks in large part to a robust and honest conversation being had among CI teachers about the value of targeted reps and the characteristics of flow. That being said, there's no reason why I wouldn't do it the way I used to now and again. But this is where I'm at now with joke-telling in my classroom.

And hey, if nothing pedagogically productive transpires from me telling jokes to my students, neither language gains nor affective inroads, at least I can say I amused myself and perhaps improved my dinner-guest repetoire in the process.


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