Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Using jokes to prepare for the TOEFL

I picked up quite a few free joke books over the weekend to skim through and pick out some goodies.

Why did I pick up jokes? Well to help me teach of course! Just like I think comics are helpful, I think jokes can be great for a class. I am about to give a Summer long TOEFL class which consists of 3 hours a day of TOEFL training. The class isn’t my favorite to teach as it focuses on passing the test; that is to say, we spend more time on form than meaning. I try my best to make it a bit more communicative and fun through jokes, music videos etc. After all, a day without laughter is a day horribly spent.

Less than a penny a joke: $.99
So, to start: 101 best jokes. Are these the best jokes? Probably not. A lot of these are old, and quite a few I just didn’t find funny (including a section on "yo momma" jokes). However, as a teacher this book does provide reminders of some great jokes to use in class.
  • For example, if you are going to review plurals (fox-foxes, datum- data, dice-die) this is a great joke to start the class
    • “Julius Caesar walks into a bar, “I’ll have a martinus,” he says. The bartender gives him a puzzled look and asks, “don’t you mean a ‘martini’?”
      “Look,” Julius Caesar retorts, “If I wanted a double, I’d have asked for it”
  • A classic grammar gem (usually underappreciated by students) 
    • “The past, the present and the future walk into a bar. Then things get tense” 
  •  Working on homonyms? They show up a lot in the listening section and sometimes in the reading.
    • Here's a classic to review the different meaning bar can have: “Two guys walk into a bar. The third ones ducks” 
  •  Practicing idioms for the TOEFL? 
    • “I used to have a handle on life, but it broke” is an easy one.
It has a few other jokes that would fit each of the above categories and be a great addition to your class. Though honestly out of all the joke books here it wasn't my favorite and had quite a few jokes I felt perpetuated negative stereotypes (blonde jokes for example) and would prefer not to use in my class. Normally 99cents for your kindle on the price is right.

Usually sold for $2.99
The next book up is the  Ultimate Family Joke Book

Every single one of these was appropriate for class, though I am not sure I’d use every single one. Here are some that would be helpful for my TOEFL class.
  • Working on homophones? 
    •  What did the mother bird say to the baby bird when it didn’t talk nicely? Don’t use fowl language.
  • What about homonyms?
    • Why is it always so hot in a stadium after a football game? Because all the fans leave
    • What color socks to bears wear? They don’t wear socks they have bear feet. 
  • Similar Sounds: The TOEFL does a lot with similar sounds. Students need to differentiate between Leaf and Leave. Knock knock jokes can be great for this:
    • Knock knock Who’s there Joanna Joanna who Joanna come out and play. 
  • Practicing idioms for the TOEFL? Idioms often show up in jokes and this has a few examples. 
    •  Which runs faster hot or cold? Hot, anyone can catch a cold.
    • Patient: I think I am a pair of curtains Doctor: Pull yourself together.
    • Patient: I think I am a needle. Doctor: Yes I can see your point. 
If you want to start (or end) each class with a laugh, any of these jokes are good for a laugh and I think I would end up using most of them, meaning the $2.99 would be a good investment.

Usually $2.99
Since I just talked about why knock knock jokes are good I may as well slide into the Ultimate Knock Knock Joke Book. I am not sure if I would classify this as the ultimate, but many of them would be useful for class. A lot of these are great to practice hearing words correctly, which comes up on the TOEFL listening a lot.
A few of my favorites:
  • Knock Knock Who’s there? Gorilla. Gorilla who? Gorilla cheese sandwich for my lunch please
  • Knock knock Who’s there? Turnip who? Turnip the volume, it’s quiet in here.
That being said a lot of these are old. If you think you can remember your own knock knock jokes then you can probably save yourself the $2.99. If, one the other hand, you think your class would enjoy knock knock jokes and you just can't remember any this would be money well spent.

Normally $2.99
At this point you get the drill. 101 kids Jokes is great because the jokes are all very basic. It still had a few for idioms and several for homophones and homonyms. Here are some of my favorite examples:
  • Homophones
    • What are twin’s favorite fruit? Pears
  • Idioms
    • Why can’t  a rooster every get rich? Because he works for chicken feed.
    • Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed.
  • Homonyms
    • Why did the bicycle fall asleep? Because it was two tired
Some of these are REALLY corny and I am not sure older students would like them, but you know your class better than I do!

Normally $1.99 Currently Free!
2 books for $2.99!
The last two books are both by IP Factly: 101 Fish Jokes for Kids and Knock Knock Jokes for Kids DOUBLE PACK '101 Knock Knock Jokes for kids' and '101 MORE Knock Knock Jokes for kids'
  • Minimal pairs sometimes pop up on the listening.
    •  How do prawns and clams communicate? Shell-phones (from the Fish book)
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Dishes. Dishes who? This is your friend let me in. (Knock Knock)
  •  Homonyms 
    • How do you know the sea is glad to see you? It waves
  • Idioms
    • What did the shark say to its broken hearted friend? There’s plenty of fish in the sea.

The moral of the story is, whatever website or book you use you are sure to find a few funnies you can use for your class! I snagged all of these books while they were being offered for free, so if you click now you too may be able to load them to your kindle (or whatever device you use) at no charge. If you are reading this later and they are no longer free they are all under $3.00 making them less than a coffee!

I'll make more posts later on how to specifically use jokes in the class, but if you come up with any activities on your own please post them in the comments!

What’s your favorite joke to use in class? Do you have a joke book or a web page you consult when you need something to tickle your funny bone?


  1. Teaching with humor always makes a difference! This website that uses comic strips could also benefit learners and teachers:

    1. Thanks for the comment Jonathan great site :)


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