Everyone loves jokes. They can be an invaluable source of entertainment and an excellent vehicle for presenting language in context and promoting genuine communication while having a laugh. As follows, we describe some useful techniques for exploiting jokes in class. Next, a number of TEFL-appropriate jokes are included and sorted by level.

Enjoy!

                   

               WHY USE JOKES IN CLASS:

 

  •   Just say the word ‘joke’ and they’re ready to listen
  •   To motivate students to listen, read, write …
  •   Can be a gateway to understanding new cultures
  •   To create a relaxed learning atmosphere
  •   They provide exposure to authentic language and genuine communication
  •   Students learn without realising
  •   As a vehicle for language study (many jokes are rule-governed)
  •   To break the ice or liven up a dull moment
  •   For fun. Everyone loves jokes!!

 

20 TECHNIQUES FOR EXPLOITING JOKES IN CLASS:

  1. Prediction. Leave the punch line out and get students to predict it. You can have this as a race too.
  2. Leave out the punch line and provide a choice of possible punch lines to choose from. You can also have this as a race.
  3. Groups compete to match the two halves of a number of jokes. The first one to match them all correctly wins.
  4. Cut one joke up in different parts or lines and give each to a different student. Students work out the order and physically arrange themselves in the correct order.
  5. Divide a number of jokes (preferably two-line jokes) in two halves and give one half to each student in class. Students then walk around the room trying to find their matching half.
  6. Students listen to the joke and identify the stressed words or syllables. They then practice telling it. Good for stress and intonation practice.
  7. Put a joke up on the board or OHP and leave out the punch line or last few words. The first students to shout the correct answer earns a point. Riddles are good for this.
  8. Take a joke that involves different characters. Give different characters to different students. Then they act the joke out. This can be planned/discussed beforehand or improvised. They can take it even further by continuing the dialogue.
  9. Give out a number of jokes to groups or pairs of students. They discuss and agree on the wittiest, funniest, etc. Good for group discussion and negotiation of meaning.
  10. Tell a fairly long joke and ask pairs or groups of students to reconstruct it from memory on paper.
  11. Use a joke as a springboard for oral or written production. For example one of the ‘battle of the sexes’ jokes can easily lead into a debate or role-play.
  12. Use a joke that includes samples of the grammar you want to teach instead of a boring text in your course book … or adapt it so that it includes examples of that grammar!
  13. Mime a joke and ask students to guess it. Then they do the same in groups.
  14. Translation. Ask students to think of some jokes in their mother tongue that lend themselves to translation and some that don’t. Students then provide a translation of the first and an explanation of why they think the latter can’t be translated.
  15. Present a model joke that and ask students to invent new ones following the same structure.
  16. Students expand the story or dialogue in a joke to add a twist to it.
  17. Do not mention the relationship between the characters in the joke (doctor-patient, policeman-driver, etc) and get students to guess.
  18. Play Jokes Bingo! Instead of numbers put punch lines from different jokes in the boxes. Teacher then reads the jokes without the punch lines. When students hear a joke they cross out the corresponding box.
  19. Give each student the first half of a joke (or a number of them) and stick the other halves on the walls around the classroom, behind chairs, etc. The aim of the activity is to find the corresponding half. You can turn this into a race with students playing individually or in teams.
  20. Build a bank of jokes over the course. Let students take initiative and add jokes to the existing bank every week. You can assign certain days of the month/term for students to update the bank and do activities with them.

JOKES BY LEVEL

As follows is a collection of jokes sorted by level. Jokes that work perfectly well with one group of students sometimes are a complete failure with the next. In the end, it is up to you to decide which jokes are best for which students. At the end of each joke you will find an idea as to what you can use it to teach. This is just a recommendation; needless to say, possibilities are endless.

 

ELEMENTARY TO PRE-INTERMEDIATE

Two-liners

“Am I the first man you have ever loved?” he said.
“Of course,” she answered “Why do men always ask the same question?”

Waiter, call the manager. I can’t eat this terrible food.
There’s no point, sir. He won’t eat it either.

Look out! You’ve got your thumb in my soup!
Don’t worry. It isn’t very hot!

Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party?
Because he had no-body to go with!

Why are Saturday and Sunday strong days?
Because they are not weekdays!

What did the traffic lights say to the car?
Don’t look now. I’m changing!

I have 12 legs, 12 arms and 8 heads. What am I?
A liar!

Wait a minute, what’s your thumb doing on my steak?!
I don’t want it to fall on the floor again, sir.

Waiter! This plate is wet.
That’s your soup, sir.

Mary: John says I’m pretty. Andy says I’m ugly. What do you think, Peter?
Peter: I think you’re pretty ugly.

Q: What do you get if you cross a pig with a karate fighter?
A: Pork chops.

Q: Why is number six afraid ?
A: Because seven eight nine (seven ate nine)

Q: What do you get if you cross a pig with a karate fighter?
A: Pork chops.

Q: How do you spell mousetrap?
A: C-A-T.

Wondering doctor

Doctor: When you get up in the morning, do you have a sore throat, a pain in the middle of your shoulders and feel terribly depressed?

Patient: Yes, I do.

Doctor: So do I. I wonder what it is.

Grammar: So do I

 

Talking to God

A man is talking to God.

The man: “God, how long is a million years?”
God: “To me, it’s about a minute.”
The man: “God, how much is a million dollars?”
God: “To me it’s a penny.”
The man: “God, may I have a penny?”
God: “Wait a minute.”

Grammar: How long, how much

 

Father or mother?

 

A: Just look at that young person with the short hair and blue jeans. Is it a boy or a girl?
B: It’s a girl. She’s my daughter.
A: Oh, I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know that you were her father.
B: I’m not. I’m her mother.

Vocabulary: Families

 


Heaven and Hell

What’s the difference between Heaven and Hell?

In Heaven…
the French are the cooks, the Germans are the engineers, the British are the police, the Swiss are the managers, the Italians are the lovers

In Hell…
the British are the cooks, the French are the managers, the Italians are the engineers, the Germans are the police, the Swiss are the lovers.

Vocabulary: Jobs, Nationalities

Student mistakes

 

The day of the oral exam:

Teacher: Are you nervous?
Student: No, I am not. I am single.
Teacher: Is this your pencil?
Student: Yes, I am a pencil.
Teacher: What are you wearing?
Student: I am fat.

Three EFL students are walking down the road to their remedial listening comprehension workshop.

“It’s windy” says the first.
“No it isn’t, it’s Thursday” says the second.
“Me too.” says the third, “Forget the listening, let’s go for a drink!”

 

 

INTERMEDIATE

Two and Three Liners

Q: Why don’t sharks eat clowns?
A: Because they taste funny.

Q: What did the doctor say when the invisible man called to make an appointment?
A: Tell him I can’t see him today.

Q: How many sheep does it take to make one wool sweater?
A: I didn’t even know sheep could knit!

Q: What do you call a dog with no legs?
A: Why bother, he won’t come anyway.

Teacher: Did your father help you with your homework?
Student: No, he did it all by himself.

I used to be a werewoolf…
But I’m much better noooooooooooow !

What’s the difference between capitalism and communism?
Under capitalism, Man exploits Man. Under communism, it is exactly the opposite

Why did the bald man paint rabbits on his head?
Because from a distance they looked like hares!

Patient: Doctor, I have a pain in my eye whenever I drink tea.
Doctor: Take the spoon out of the mug before you drink.

Wife: If I left you for some man, would you be sorry?

Husband: Why would I be sorry for a man I don’t know?

Friend A: Every time I get drunk I see rabbits with red spots.
Friend B: Have you seen your doctor?
Friend A: No, just rabbits with red spots.

Patient: Are you positive I’ll get well? I’ve heard doctors sometimes give wrong diagnoses – and treat patients for pneumonia who later die of typhoid fever.
Doctor: Don’t worry. When I treat a man for pneumonia, he dies of pneumonia.

Mother: “Did you enjoy your first day at school?”
Girl: “First day? Do you mean I have to go back tomorrow?

Teacher: Do you have trouble making decisions?
Student: Well…yes and no.

I was born in California.”
“Which part?”
“All of me.”

Did you hear about the skeleton who walked into a cafe?
He ordered a cup of coffee and a mop.

Man:”God, why did you make woman so beautiful?”
God:”So you would love her.”
Man:”But God, why did you make her so dumb?”God:”So she would love you.”

Q: What did the doughnut say to the loaf of bread?
A: If I had as much dough as you, I wouldn’t be hanging around this hole.

Boss: You’re late. You should have been here at nine o’clock.
Worker: Why, what happened?

Postman: I’ve had to walk five miles to deliver this letter to your farm.
Farmer: You should have posted it!

Beggar: I haven’t had food for so long. I’ve forgotten what it takes like.
Passerby: Don’t worry, it still tastes the same.

Judge: Guilty. Ten days or two hundred dollars.
Convict: I’ll take the two hundred, thanks.

Girlfriend: If we get engaged to be married, will you give me a ring?
Boyfriend: Sure. What’s your phone number?

 

Good news and bad news

A man receives a phone call from his doctor.
The doctor says, “I have some good news and some bad news.”
The man says, “OK, give me the good news first.”
The doctor says, “The good news is, you have 24 hours to live.”
The man replies, “Oh no! If that’s the good news, then what’s the bad news?”
The doctor says, “The bad news is, I forgot to call you yesterday.”

Topic: News

 


Worker wants day off

Two factory workers are talking. The woman says, “I can make the boss give me the day off.”
The man replies, “And how would you do that?”
The woman says, “Just wait and see.” She then hangs upside-down from the ceiling.
The boss comes in and says, “What are you doing?”
The woman replies, “I’m a light bulb.”
The boss then says, “You’ve been working so much that you’ve gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off.”
The man starts to follow her and the boss says, “Where are you going?”
The man says, “I’m going home, too. I can’t work in the dark.”

Grammar: Present Perfect Continuous

 

Train Schedule

 

Said to a railroad engineer: What’s the use of having a train schedule if the trains are always late?
The reply from the railroad engineer: How would we know they were late, if we didn’t have a schedule?

Grammar: 2nd Conditional

I don’t think I know

Teacher: “Nick, what is the past participle of the verb to ring?”
Nick: “What do you think it is, Sir?”
Teacher: “I don’t think, I KNOW!”
Nick: “I don’t think I know either, Sir!”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Pronunciation: word stress

I haven’t done my homework

PUPIL: “Would you punish me for something I didn’t do?”
TEACHER:” Of course not.”
PUPIL: “Good, because I haven’t done my homework.”

Grammar: 2nd Conditional; Present Perfect

Galley slaves

The captain is telling the galley slaves that he has some good news and some bad news. ‘The good news is,’ he begins, ‘that you’ll all be getting a glass of whisky tonight.’ ‘And what’s the bad news?’ asks a slave. ‘The Captain wants to water-ski tomorrow!’

Grammar: Future Continuous

 

Note to the parents

An elementary school teacher sends this note to all parents on the first day of school.

“If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I will promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home.

                                                                                                                                               Grammar: 1st Conditional

Good eyesight

An Englishman went to Spain on a fishing trip. He hired a Spanish guide to help him find the best fishing spots. Since the Englishman was learning Spanish, he asked the guide to speak to him in Spanish and to correct any mistakes of usage. They were hiking on a mountain trail when a very large, purple and blue fly crossed their path. The Englishmen pointed at the insect with his fishing rod, and said, “Mira el mosca!” The guide, sensing a teaching opportunity, replied, “No, senor, ‘la mosca’… es feminina.” The Englishman looked at him, then back at the fly, and then said, “Good heavens… you must have incredibly good eyesight.”                                                                                                     

Grammar: Past Continuous / Interrupted past

 

Snail in the bar


A snail walks into a bar and the barman tells him there’s a strict policy about having snails in the bar and so kicks him out. A year later the same snail re-enters the bar and asks the barman “What did you do that for?”        

                                                                                                                             Grammar: Past Simple

Alaska

1st Eskimo: Where did your mother come from?
2nd Eskimo: Alaska
1st Eskimo: Don’t bother. I’ll ask her myself.

                                                                                     Pronunciation

Everybody blames Somebody

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

                                                                                                     Grammar: pronouns; could have + past participle

Woman without man

An English teacher wrote these words on the whiteboard: “woman without her man is nothing”. The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly.

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”
The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing.”
                                                                                                                                                 

Grammar: punctuation

Cursing parrot

A man got a parrot which could already talk. It had belonged to a sailor and had a big vocabulary. However, the man soon discovered that the parrot mostly knew bad words. At first he thought it was funny, but then it became tiresome, and finally, when the man had important guests, the bird’s bad words embarrassed him very much.

As soon as the guests left, the man angrily shouted at the parrot,”That language must stop!”. But the bird answered him with curses. He shook the bird and shouted again, “Don’t use those ugly words!” Again the bird cursed him.

Now the man was really angry. He grabbed the parrot and threw him into the refrigerator. But it had no effect. From inside the refrigerator,the parrot was still swearing. He opened the door and took him out, and again the bird spoke in dirty words and curses. This time, the man opened the door of the freezer, threw the bird into it, and closed the door. This time there was silence. After two minutes, the man opened the door and removed the very cold parrot. Slowly the shivering parrot walked up the man’s arm, sat on his shoulder and spoke into his ear, sounding very frightened:

“I’ll be good, I promise…Those chickens in there.. what did they say?”

Grammar: Past regular and irregular verbs

Hawaii

The two beginning ESL students went to Honolulu on holiday. Soon they began to argue about the correct way to pronounce the word “Hawaii.” One student insisted that it’s Hawaii, with a “w” sound. The other student said it was pronounced like “Havaii,” with a “v” sound.

Finally, they saw an old native on the beach, and asked him which was correct. The old man said it’s “Havaii.” The student who was right was very happy, and thanked the old man.

The old man said “you’re velcome.”

Pronunciation: /v/ vs /w/

Graffiti and the teacher

Every day, an ESL teacher was seen coming out of the rest room with a marker, used for writing. In the rest room were expressions and graffiti written on the walls. It was very bad. Finally, the Director of the school called the teacher into the office and told the teacher that it was terrible of him to write those things on the walls. The teacher said that he was not the one writing those things. All that the teacher did was to correct the grammar.

                                               Grammar: reported speech

3-legged chicken

 

A man was driving at 80 kph one day when he was passed by a 3-legged chicken. He accelerated and passed the chicken. Three minutes later the chicken passed him again as he was driving at 100 kph. The man tried to catch the chicken but it ran down a side road. The man followed it into a farmyard but couldn’t find it anywhere. He saw the farmer and told him the story and the man asked for an explanation. The farmer said that he, his wife and his son all liked chicken legs so he bred 3-legged chickens.

“What do they taste like?” asked the man.
“I don’t know”, replied the farmer, “we haven’t caught one yet”

 

Grammar: Compound adjectives; past simple

The Monk

A man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the head monk.
The head monk said, “You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years.”
The man agreed and after the first 3 years, the head monk came to him and said, “What are your two words?”
“Food cold!” the man replied.
Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said “What are your two words?”
“Robe dirty!” the man exclaimed.
Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said, “What are your two words?”
“I quit!” said the man.
“Well, the head monk replied, I am not surprised. You have done nothing but complain ever since you got here!”
                                                                                                                     

Structure: To have done nothing + Verb

 

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE UPWARDS

Hair-raising story

What’s a waste of energy?
Telling a hair-raising story to a bald man!
                                                                                                                               

Vocabulary: Compound adjectives

Ugly Baby

A woman got on a bus, holding a baby.
The bus driver said, “That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.”
In a huff, the woman slammed her fare into the fare box and took an aisle seat near the rear of the bus.
The man seated next to her sensed that she was agitated and asked her what was wrong.
“The bus driver insulted me,” she fumed.
The man sympathized and said, “Why, he’s a public servant and shouldn’t say things to insult passengers.”
“You’re right,” she said. “I think I’ll go back up there and give him a piece of my mind.”
“That’s a good idea,” the man said. “Here, let me hold your monkey.”
                                                                                                                

Grammar: Reported Speech; Superlatives

 

An insistent duck

A duck walks into a bar and goes up to the bartender.
The bartender says “What can I get you?”
Duck: Umm. Do you have any grapes?
Bartender (looking surprised and finding the question odd):
No, I’m afraid we don’t.
And the duck waddles slowly out of the bar.

The next day at the same time, the duck waddles into the bar, hops up on a bar stool.
Bartender: Hi. What can I get for you?
Duck: Umm. Do you have any grapes?
Bartender (a little annoyed): Hey! Weren’t you in here yesterday. Look buddy, we don’t have any grapes. OK?

The duck hops off the stool and waddles out the door.

The next day, at the same time, the bartender is cleaning some glasses when he hears a familiar voice
Duck: Umm.. Do you have any grapes?
The bartender is really ticked off.
Bartender: Look. What’s your problem? You came in here yesterday asking for grapes, I TOLD you, WE DON’T HAVE ANY GRAPES!! Next time I see your little ducktail waddle in here I’m going to nail those little webbed feet of yours to the floor. GOT me pal?

And the duck hops off the bar stool and waddles out.

The NEXT day at the same time, the duck waddles into the bar, walks up to the bartender and the bartender says,
“What the heck do YOU want?”
Umm. do you have any nails?
What!? OF course not.
Oh. Well, do you have any grapes?                                                                 

Pronunciation: connected speech

How to get out of a locked room

 

Q: A man was locked in a room with only a bed, a calendar, and a piano. How did he drink, how did he eat, and how did he get out? Another man was locked in a room with only a mirror and a table. How did he get out? A third man was locked in an empty room. How did he escape?

A: The first man drank from the springs of the bed, ate the dates off the calendar and played the piano until he found the right key, which he used to unlock the door. The second man looked in the mirror to see what he saw. Then he took the saw and cut the table in half. Next, he put the two halves together to make a whole. Finally, he crawled out through the hole. The third man broke out with the measles.

                                                                                                                                       

Vocabulary: polysemic word

A Good Teacher

One day, a teacher was attempting to teach the names of animals to a class of 5-year-olds. She held up a picture of a deer, and asked one boy, “Billy, what is this animal?”. Little Billy looked at the picture with a disheartened look on his face and responded, “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, I don’t know.”. The teacher was not one to give up easily, so she then asked Billy, “Well, Billy, what does your Mommy call your Daddy?” Little Billy’s face suddenly brightened up, but then a confused look came over his face, as he asked, “Mrs. Smith, is that really a pig?”!

Phrasal Verbs: Give up, come over, brighten up


100 Penguins

A truck driver was driving 100 penguins to the New York Zoo when his truck broke down on the freeway. The driver got out of the cab and was looking at the engine when a second truck driver stopped in front of him and asked if he needed any help. The penguins’ driver explained that he is taking the penguins to the zoo and asked if the other man would take the penguins there. He agreed. Some hours later, the second truck driver drove past the first one, who was still waiting on the freeway for help to come. The penguins, however, were still on the truck! “I thought I asked you to take those penguins to the zoo,” shouted the first driver. The second replied, “I did, but I had some money left, so we’re going to the cinema now.”

Grammar: Past Continuous; Interrupted Past

Do you deserve to enter heaven?

A man died and went to heaven. An angel met him at the Gates of Heaven and said, ‘Before you meet with God, I thought I should tell you – we’ve examined your whole life, and you really didn’t do anything particularly good or bad. We’re not sure whether we can admit you into heaven or not. Can you tell us anything exceptional you did that can help us make a decision?’ The newly arrived soul thought for a moment and replied, ‘Yeah, once I was driving along and came upon a woman who was being harassed by a group of goons. So I pulled over, got out my tire iron, and went up to the leader of the gang. He was a big, muscular, hairy guy with tattoos all over his body and a ring pierced through his nose. Well, I tore the nose ring out of his nose, and told him that he and his gang had better stop bothering the woman or they would have to deal with me!’ ‘I’m impressed,’ The angel responded, ‘When did this happen?’ The man replied, ‘About two minutes ago’.

Descriptive vocabulary; Reported Speech

Improve Your Memory!

 

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?” “Outstanding,” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques – visualization, association – it has made a big difference for me.” “That’s great! What was the name of that clinic?” Fred went blank. He thought and thought but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?” “You mean a rose?” “Yes, that’s it!” Then he turned to his wife and asked, “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”

Grammar: Past irregular verbs

The Juggler

A driver was pulled over by a police officer for speeding. As the officer was writing the ticket, she noticed several machetes in the car. “What are those for?” she asked suspiciously. “I’m a juggler,” the man replied. “I use those in my act.” “Well show me,” the officer demanded. So he got out the machetes and started juggling them, first three, then more, finally seven at one time, overhand, underhand, behind the back, putting on a dazzling show and amazing the officer. Another car passed by. The driver did a double take, and said,”Holy Mother, I’ve got to give up the drink! Look at the test they’re giving now!”

Vocabulary: pull over, overhand, underhand, do a double take …

 

Happy Birthday Boss

Some employees bought their boss a gift for his birthday. Before opening the gift, the boss shook it slightly, and noticed that it was wet in the corner. Touching his finger to the wet spot and tasting it, he asked, “A bottle of wine?”

His employees replied, “No.”
Again, he touched his finger to the box and tasted the liquid. “A bottle of scotch?”
His employees replied again, “No.”
Finally the boss asked, “I give up. What is it?”
His workers responded, “A puppy.”

On the topic of ‘tasting’; Past simple


A little old lady

A little old lady from a small village in the middle of the country has recently been widowed. She decides that she has spent too long confined to the village and that it is time to see a bit of the world. The first thing she decides to do is go and see a wonderful place in Barcelona that she has heard so much about: the Corte Inglés!

One day she asks a nephew of hers to drive her to Tarragona station. Once there, her nephew buys her a return ticket and makes sure she gets on the right train. He also tells her that she has to get off at the Passeig de Gràcia.

The train arrives, the little old lady gets off and she follows all the other people along the platform, up the stairs and out into the Passeig de Gràcia. Of course, she has never seen anyhting like it in her life. So grand, so majestic, so full of life. She starts walking and soon gets hopelessly lost.

After a while she decides to ask someone the way. She stops an extremely elegant woman and says “Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the Corte Inglés, please?”

“Of course,” says the woman, pushing back her hair to reveal an extremely expensive diamond earring. “Go straight on (she points in the right direction and shows a beautiful, gold watch on her left wrist) and then take the second (she shows two fingers on one of which there is a large ruby ring) right (she points again with her right hand to reveal a magnificent silver bracelet). The Corte Inglés is at the end of the street.”

The little old lady is astounded at such opulence and feels that it is only good manners to reply in the same way. She sticks a finger in her mouth to reveal a gold tooth and says, “Thank you very much.”

Vocabulary: clothes, accessories – Functional language: directions

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 REFERENCES

Laughing Matters, Péter Medgyes, Cambridge University Press
Jokes in English for the ESL/EFL Classroom (A Project of The Internet TESL Journal)   http://iteslj.org/c/jokes.html
Listen to/download audio jokes from the internet:
http://www.manythings.org/jokes/
ESL Jokes for English Students at the Englishclub:
http://www.englishclub.com/esl-jokes/
Learn English with Teacher Joe:
http://www.teacherjoe.us/Jokes.html
NIEHS  Kids’ Pages:
http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/jokes.htm