The Little Book of Laughter

Using humour as a tool to engage and motivate all learners

By: Dave Keeling


Size: 174mm x 124mm

Pages : 160

ISBN : 9781781350089

Format: Hardback

Published: November 2013

The Little Book of Laughter (ISBN 9781781350089) is now out of print. Independent Thinking on Laughter is an updated edition and is one of a number of books in the Independent Thinking On ... series from the award-winning Independent Thinking Press.

Picture for author Dave Keeling

Dave Keeling

Dave Keeling has been a professional actor and stand-up' educationalist for more than two decades, working the length and breadth of the UK with teachers, pupils and parents. Whether it's leading a workshop with challenging teenagers, speaking to a hall-full of equally reluctant teachers or delivering a keynote for school leaders looking for the cure to recalcitrance in their school, Dave never fails to leave delegates happy, moved, less stressed and feeling a great deal more motivated by the job in front of them.


  1. Sample chapters are: Humour, curiosity, and playfulness - Being seven all over again; The sciency bit - It's brain Jim, but not as we know it; Please be seated for the secrets of standup; Making it up as you go - improvisation and teaching. Also: 30 exercises to build rapport and encourage spontaneity and creativity; 20 reasons to use laughter in your lessons; 20 objects for your comedy kitbag; 10 good free apps; some good jokes.
  2. sometimes you just have to laugh. The absurdities that life throws at us every now and then can drive you to distraction, and this appears to be a quintessential part of being a teacher in current times -” you need a sense of humour to look beyond the latest whimsical policy idea; the last staff meeting that just went on and on, with no clear purpose; teaching Rocket Science to that group of Year 9's on a Friday afternoon; or the prospect of parents evening, which will mean you don't get home until 10pm, at the earliest! I mean, what else did we all embark on a teaching career for?

    So, as teachers are clearly working in a profession with a profound sense of humour, what are the benefits of show this comical side to students and colleagues? This is where Dave Keeling comes to the rescue with his Little Book of Laughter, which firmly calls for humour and fun to be returned to educational establishments, citing the key psychological and emotional benefits of laughter to create moments which can occur to make things in the classroom better all round. So, what are the key reasons for ensuring humour is present in your pedagogical style? Here are a few, from the book:

    Keeps students' attention.
    Emphasises key points so they stand out, allowing for better retention.
    Can make facts and data easier to digest.
    Can help regain control more effectively after a disturbance.
    Can relax an audience, creating a better sense of unity.
    Keeps relationships exciting, fresh, sparky, fun and healthy.
    Enriches daily interactions.
    Can be used as a tool to build resilience.

    As Pink Floyd reminded us (Another Brick in the Wall), the difference between humour and dark sarcasm can be very small indeed, and managing humour is a key essential for teachers as you don't want to belittle fragile students who misunderstand your funniness(!), with Keeling reminding us that you should never make it personal -” although it is usually easier to make jokes about yourself and laugh about yourself. Fundamentally, the key tricks to being humorous are relatively simple, and worthy of tuning up on if you -˜are not funny': The element of surprise; Exaggeration (How big?); Silliness (All about timing, and knowing where to draw the line); Stories (the funnier the story, the better), and; Imagination -” be open and let your imagination run amok!

    In these times of self-importance, arrogance, paranoia, loss of reality, etc. it is possible to forget the role of humour and laughter in our schools, as expectations of accountability, testing, league tables and inspections all take centre-stage. The integral part of schooling, for pupils at least, is the human, friend social side, with humour playing a significant part in this -” this also must include the adults working to support the development of children. The Little Book of Laughter is for those teachers, leaders, or managers, who regularly forget about this, providing 30 exercises to help build rapport, encourage spontaneity, getting creative juices flowing, improve learning and generally make everything better. Did you make your class smile today, thanks to your humour?
  3. Developing a sense of humor in school helps thinkers gain a better understanding of figurative language, double meanings, and abstract thinking. Educators using humor themselves, or using humorous learning activities help students learn beyond the obvious. Using humor is also of value for students to learn how to tell jokes and use humor in their world. Educators - when you read "The Little Book of Laughter," you will realize how "humor is essential as a communication tool in learning" and how we need to get our students communicating, seeing, learning, and laughing, and get past Phyllis Diller's quote, "we spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up."
  4. This is another outstanding book in the “Little Book Of.....” series edited by Ian Gilbert. The author draws a clear distinction between telling jokes and humour , which is the use of language, body movement and facial expression to make people laugh. Feedback from children and adults of all ages clearly identifies a “sense of humour” as a key attribute of a “good teacher”. The author makes really effective use of a wide range of humorous quotes from a wide range of sources which all help to generate humour, laughter and interest in the main text. The section on how to effect a change of state in both yourself and a class and build rapport is excellent As the author states, humour is your short cut to empower students of all ages to learn and to enjoy learning to learn. The section on “Gagging for More” outlines clearly twenty of the best reasons to bring laughter to work with you and how to build up a comedy kit bag. A great read!
  5. The little book of laughter is just that- it makes you laugh, some good tools to use in a classroom to keep it lively, reminding us it should be fun regardless of what educational changes are piled upon us.
  6. It seems obvious that students like funny teachers, but perhaps it is less obvious that they might learn more when lessons are funny. In case you had ever been in any doubt about this -” or simply had never thought of it before, Dave Keeling presents an extremely strong case for it in The Little Book of Laughter. Your first thought, upon being convinced, may well be -˜oh crap, I'm just not funny!' However, Dave is on hand to show you ways in which you can harness humour for yourself, and put it to good use in your lessons.

    With enlightening quotations sprinkling each chapter, Dave shows us how we can use techniques from standup comedy in our teaching -” and techniques they are, that can be learned by those who do not necessarily have a natural talent for humour. Confidence, he explains, comes after experience, not before -” a point which I have subsequently used to good effect to bolster bravery and even a little recklessness in my own students. At the end of the book he gives us a compendium of thirty exercises that can be tried right away in lessons -” and what teacher doesn't love a giveaway?

    This book is the perfect antidote to energy-sapping staffroom cynics -” an optimistic and joyful shot in the arm for anyone who feels their enthusiasm for teaching might be slipping. Laugh off those directives and specification changes, and give your teaching a humour injection.
  7. Dave Keeling's 'The Little Book of Laughter' is a delightful book that concisely brings together some of the key ideas and facts about the impact of laughter on a person in order to make the case for the use of humour in an educational setting. Keeling engages with a range of different perspectives on humour, from the scientific views on the impact of laughter and our brain's processing of humour, to the use of improvisational theatre techniques, and offers a resounding argument for incorporating play and laughter into the classroom.
    Indeed, it is an engaging read, full of comic examples and interludes, which Keeling then takes care to unpack. Indeed, through his humorous and engaging writing, Keeling is modelling his suggested practice for the reader.
    Keeling offers a useful distinction between laughter and humour, and the discussion on humour as a way of seeing and processing the world, as a cognitive process, is particularly relevant for the reader and he makes a strong case for the inclusion of humour in learning, emphasising its essential role as a communication tool. One of the key areas of the book is that it encourages the reader, and accordingly the educator, to consider their outwardly facing self or presentation to the rest of the world, or more specifically, the classroom. It encourages people to reflect on their body language, facial expressions, voice (tone and pitch) and the words used and to consider how they can use these to create an atmosphere of play, experimentation and fun in order to create more in-depth or -˜sticky' learning, through emotional connections. Throughout the book, Keeling offers useful examples and the final chapter outlines 30 different approaches and exercises to working with humour and laughter in order to develop children's reasoning, analysis, debating, memory and literacy skills, in a enjoyable and engaging manner.
    This book encourages the reader to find their own comedy influences, to consider what it is that they find funny and to note when they are funny, in order to take these ideas and experiences and to develop them into approaches that they can employ in their own teaching. Crucially, this book inspires and encourages the possibility of risk-taking and laughter and the benefits of such play in your teaching practice, and, just as importantly, it makes you laugh.
  8. David Keeling is the Patch Adams of education. As the pressure and accountability on schools and teachers continue to rise this book represents a much needed reality check on what schools, childhood and growing up is all about.
  9. Dave Keeling takes the old saying 'Make 'em laugh, make 'em think' and transforms it into a clear, informative and enjoyable guide that shows teachers of all age ranges how to use humour in education. The Little Book of Laughter combines analysis of different forms of comedy with a handy DIY guide as well as providing a series of 'seriously funny' jokes that will make both teachers and pupils laugh aloud.

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