Cartoons to Lighten the Classroom Mood

by Mike Meyer, Director of the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning

As students’ stress levels rise, you may want to lighten the classroom mood a bit with a cartoon. Cartoons can be used as a warm-up at the beginning of class, as an “attention-clock reset” throughout class, to introduce a topic or even to drive home a particular point. Evidence suggests that getting students to laugh just before an exam can also raise performance, so some instructors include a cartoon just above the first question.

The Internet is full of cartoons, but two particularly good sources for Creative Commons-licensed cartoons include XKCD and Webdonuts. Both sites cover a wide selection of topics and are searchable and embeddable. XKCD, which provides a little edgier humor, is likely to be more popular with typical undergraduates.

If you’d like to talk more about how the attention clock resets or the use of cartoons, or if you would like to share teaching resources you’ve found, or feel free to stop by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in Library 219.