September 08, 2014

Affective Puns for Young Language Learners!


“Puns are the highest form of literature.” 
Alfred Hitchcock

Those of you who follow me on pinterest might have noticed that I have been collecting puns for the last months. I find them really witty and I have had great fun figuring them out. Puns are smart, funny, and memorable ways to live language affectively with our students. So as an affective teacher that I am,  I am now writing  a post about how we can use puns to promote language learning!

But what are puns? Puns are jokes that play with the hidden messages or double meaning created by sounds or uses of words. They are usually quick one-lined jokes that require some language knowledge and mastery for one to get them.  We can find puns on newspaper headlines, store names, movie names, and lots of puns are created and shared everyday on the internet. Last, a person who is always making puns is a punster.

So, let me welcome you to the magic world of puns!
Check here some examples: 

Puns that play with sounds: 

Puns that play with meaning: 

Puns that play with visuals:

Puns that play with popular culture:

Puns that play with opposites:

Puns that play with names:

And there are even more types that I didn't select to have in this post. 

 But how can I used them in my classes? 

Even though most puns require some knowledge of the language and the culture, many puns can be with young learners if language is pre-taught and the joke entails aspects of their universe. I suggest that at first we should  present easy puns and guide students to understand how puns play with language. Then I invite you to try some of these ideas below: 

1. Read and show: you can have puns on flashcards and you show and read them to your students. Make sure you pre-teach words that are necessary for students to get the jokes. You will notice quickly who got them.

2. Hold and tell: once students have understood the puns from the first activity, they can hold different puns and tell these to their peers. Make sure you demonstrate before letting them tell the puns. You can even record them and send the video to their parents.

3. Match: give students puns and pictures for them to figure out which pun matches each picture. With young learners you can read them the words or sentences and emphasize key words. This can be done with the puns you have worked in the previous activity.

4. Fill out the missing words: students receive some puns with words missing and they have to complete these gaps. A word bank can be created to help students that are beginners or that are working with hard puns.

5. Putting words in order: you can give students scrambled words and they make the sentences with the puns. Try it out yourself:

ashamed - you - otter - yourself - be - of

6. Listen and draw: you can write the puns on the board, students draw these in pairs, and then they show their creations to the class. After this show your drawing or the picture you have. You can have their drawings displayed in the bulletin board for other classes to have a laugh. Great fun!

Example: You are giraffing me crazy!

7. Figuring out the pun: give students the "correct sentence" and they write the pun. Example: Give students "I could barely sleep last night." and they come up with "I couldn't bearly sleep last night."

8. Writing puns: you give students the pictures and they try to write the puns. They then check their puns with the original ones. Many times their puns are much better!

9. Ranking: show students some puns and ask them to rank these from best to the worst. They can create their lists on paper and then share these with each other. Pre-teach the language they will need in their discussions. Model the discussion before they check in pairs. Suggested language: This one is really creative. / I love this one. / No way. / This one is terrible.

I was only able to think about nine ways to use puns. Can you help me find  other different ways? I will naturally give you credit for your idea and put a link to your blog if you have one.

10. Dictation: teacher explains the situation to the students (e.g. a deer meets a bear). Then teacher dictates the pun to see which student can think of the 'clever' spelling. This is more appropriate for advanced/older YLs though - I think!  -  idea from Katie Foufouti from Greece.  Thank you, Katie!!!

11. Need your help!

12. Need your help!

Check here my pinterest pun page with more than 500 puns for you and your students to learn, enjoy, and have fun with this magic and mysterious thing called language. Let me know how you like these ideas and how you have worked puns with your students.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Send you all a big hug from a Turkey,


(with my own personal pun!)

Did you like it? Share it!
Thank you!


  1. Hehehehe love it! Reminds me of our wonderful bus rides while training together in Konya :-D

    1. Hi Kylie! I surely do remember all the fun we had together. Hope we can do that again soon. Hugs from Buddy and me!!!

  2. Hi dear Juan!
    I simply loved your post!! I have never imagined how funny "puns" can be. I agree with you that students need to have certain amount of knowledge of the language to understand them however, we can show them just for fun and to let students create more of their own, both in L1 and L2.
    Smiles from Argentina,
    Maria :)

    1. Hi dear Maria!
      Lovely to read your message as always. Puns really need some language to be understood and we can certainly help them. Enjoy lots of funny puns with your students!
      Send you huge hugs from Turkey!!!
      Juan :) :) :)

  3. Hello Juan,

    another idea that's sprung from yours.
    Dictation: teacher explains the situation to the students (e.g. a deer meets a bear). Then teacher dictates the pun to see which student can think of the 'clever' spelling. This is more appropriate for advanced/older YLs though - I think!

  4. Hi Katie!
    Super thank you for your idea. I have included it in the post.
    Enjoy funny puns with your students!
    Hugs from Turkey!!!

  5. Thank you Juan for another inspiring post. I believe students can come up with very interesting new puns and photos . Will surely try them once we're back to work . Enjoy the holidays ;)

    1. Hi Ayat! Thank you for your comment. I believe everybody enjoys a bit of humour, and besides that puns are a great way to learn. Once you see them and laugh, you will probably remember. Hugs!!!


Thank you for your comment!