Sometimes when I reflect on my journey as an educator, I think back to my first evaluations as a student teacher. It’s so interesting to consider the things that used to take so much thought and energy which have now become second nature. But what I find even more interesting is that certain aspects of my teaching style from those very first days have remained exactly the same–the things that are intrinsic to my teaching persona and instincts. One of those things is laughter. I distinctly remember sitting down with my evaluating teacher-mentor after an observation in South Milwaukee, and the first thing she did was look at me, smile, and say, “I can tell you really just love teaching your students. You smile a lot. And you laugh a lot!”

It’s still so true. I talk a lot about the joy of teaching, but I really feel that we can’t talk about that enough. It’s just joyful to be in the company of young people, and to smile, laugh, and find ways to make learning enjoyable and… if at all possible… hilarious. Adolescents are, by nature, boisterous and tend to relish sarcasm and wit. This is a power that can (and does) get them in trouble, but it can also be a powerful tool for building rapport and igniting a desire to investigate language, if used correctly.

So, when my dear friend and teaching compatriot, Mr. M., asked what I thought about the idea of a sophomore-level humor unit, I was all in from day one. What followed sparked one of our most successful tenth grade units, and one that we’re lucky enough to be able to showcase at the WCTE conference this Friday. For those who attend the session (or for those who cannot make it in person), we’ve made the materials available here for you. You’ll find our rationale, a bibliography, a list of texts we utilized in class, student examples and more in the links below. We hope that you’ll enjoy building your own humor unit, and share ideas about how to add or modify what we’ve begun here. Thanks for visiting!

The Rhetoric of Humor:

Reading and Creating Comedic Texts to Enhance Student Writing, Literacy, and Community

Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention

Friday, October 12, 2012  ~   Madison, WI

Link to Google Presentation that overviews the essentials of our approach: click here!

Digital copy of handout from the conference: The Rhetoric of Humor handout

Additional formative and summative assignments from the unit: Additional Unit Materials