A Funny Side of Literacy

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How can students articulate the difference between “roll” and “role”? Or all the different meanings of the word “hand”? This skill involves vocabulary knowledge as well as critical thinking skills. Jokes with puns involving ambiguous words can be a clever way to develop these skills with students. Tapping into student’s “puzzle-solving” brain can result in some highly engaging and entertaining lessons for students.

Try this activity to get started. Introduce an example of a pun in writing: “A vulture boards an airplane carrying two dead mice. The flight attendant looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.” Then ask the class to look up “carrion” and see what they think of the pun now. Now break up the class into groups of two to four students to tackle a series of similar examples. This is a great way for students to grasp the concept of a pun, and also to learn the importance of reading carefully and looking up words they don’t understand. Read more.