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How To Use Jokes As Learning Opportunities For All Ages And Abilities


Months ago, we began implementing practice-wide introductory activities with all of our clients at the start of every session. We chose a variety of activities that offer a balance of mindful reflection, humor, and fun: a round of deep breathing, attempting a mindful minute of silence and stillness, attempting to solve the joke of the week, and stating an affirmation. Over the next few months, this newsletter will delve into each warm-up activity, its purpose, its benefits for your child, and ideas for carrying each practice over in your homes. This month’s topic: jokes!

We love incorporating the practice of solving a weekly joke into our session warm ups. Jokes provide numerous opportunities to nurture language skills, perspective-taking skills and social problem solving. Humor is nuanced, relies on background knowledge and life experiences for understanding, and often must be catered towards an audience based on the audience’s perspective.

For some clients, joke-solving is easy! For others, we utilize visual and auditory supports to help them solve the joke in a way that feels “just right” based on their individual strengths. One such visual support, the word web, encourages use of relational vocabulary skills to help clients narrow in on possible play-on-words answers to jokes. For example, we recently had a joke of the week that read as follows: “What is a polar bear’s favorite food?” The answer is a “brrrr-ito.” We encouraged clients to build a word web centered around the word “cold” and think of other associated words such as freezing, scarf, shivering, etc.

This exercise also encourages sensory awareness and mindfulness, in that we can prompt clients to consider all sensory aspects of being cold such as what they see, what they wear, what they feel, what they might say, and so on. A photo example of a word web is included below.



Venn Diagrams are also great visual supports better suited to older children and young-adult clients . We use Venn Diagrams often to help clients find common ground between concepts when solving jokes. For the polar bear example, we might’ve had clients contrast “things associated with being cold” and “grab and go foods” on either side of the diagram, then look for crossover between items in the center “comparison” section. For additional auditory support, guiding questions are helpful in allowing our clients to develop answers on their own while also helping them narrow in on key information. For example, we might ask, “Do any of the words listed in “cold” sound like any of the foods you wrote down? (“Brrr” sounds like burrito.)

If you’d like to incorporate jokes and riddles at home, we’ve got a few suggestions for how you can easily incorporate them into everyday routines! A quick Google search will yield tons of hilarious jokes for kids, teens, and/or young adults. If your child is working on reading and handwriting, have them read and write out the joke and punchline, then discuss it.

Consider adding a joke to your family’s nightly dinner table discussion. Assign each family member a different joke for each night of the week, give them the floor to tell the joke at the table, then discuss why it’s funny, any unknown vocabulary that might be present in the joke or punchline, and how the joke could be modified for different ages and perspectives. There are so many fun learning opportunities!

We hope your month ahead is filled with joy in the warming weather, many laughs, and continued growth in learning and communication. While we will continue to implement these practices in all of our sessions, we encourage you to join us in the use of these techniques.


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