April Fools’ Day


Bringing comedy to the classroom takes more than a bit of courage. However, April Fools’ Day, largely celebrated in the western world but also the Far East, lends the opportunity to inject some fun into learning.

But proceed with caution. There are odd rules to this age-old tradition of tomfoolery (in several countries, including Britain, YOU are the fool if you try to trick someone after midday) and it’s best to consider how your students will react first rather than springing an inappropriate surprise on them.

Naturally, playing pranks on children, as my primary school teaching friend has revealed, is all too easy.

“I can tell them anything … and they believe every word!” she confessed, giddy with power, before proceeding to tell me how she had managed to convince a class of five-year-olds on the day in question that it wasn’t April Fools’ Day. No. The government had realized that, because it wasn’t a leap year, there weren’t enough days in the year so today was ACTUALLY the 32nd March. Twenty-nine young faces nodded sagely.

However, this is child’s play compared to a stunt pulled by my friend’s colleague. The school had been shut for a day because it was used as a polling station for local elections, so the teacher in question thought it amusing to announce in school assembly that the children would have to come in on Saturday to make up for the day lost. More than a couple of children burst into tears because the weekend plan to travel to the seaside / attend Johnny’s birthday party was cast into doubt. So, it’s fair to say that although children love jokes, when they are the butt of them it’s dangerous territory …

Playing (or making) jokes across different cultures can also be a bit of a minefield, leading to baffled faces and – at worst – horror, upset and the kind of all-round embarrassment where you’d rather the ground would swallow you up. So, it might be best to avoid the pranks altogether, e.g. by challenging students to construct a (tame) joke, discussing humour across cultures, writing limericks (see this lesson on onestopenglish) and completing exercises on wordplay such as homophones, to name just a few. That said, it is far more fun to explore the full potential of April Fools’ Day with an amiable group of adults of intermediate level and above that you know pretty well.

The British media is particularly fond of fooling and there are oodles of daft headlines and far-fetched tales that readers fall for hook, line and sinker, and would therefore be ideal to use in class. Some are such well-constructed whoppers, involving so much toil and imagination, that it seems impossible that they could be fabrications. The key is to take EVERTHING you read with a pinch of salt on 1st April: the ‘serious’ broadsheet newspapers are quite often more unscrupulous than the tabloids in pulling their readers’ legs. For example, the Guardian famously invented an entire country in 1977 and have pulled off a good line in gags since: last year designing a poster in the run-up to the general election and coming up with this Twitter twaddle in 2009. Note the name of the author in both cases …

There is also a good collection of media mischievousness to be found in the Museum of Hoaxes, and the Daily Mail also has a bumper selection of their own japes, but rather than just having a chuckle over them, it’s a great idea to get your students to pick the true story out of a collection of fakes. Free daily newspaper Metro does the work for you with this quartet where only one is the genuine article.

Or, like the MEC office (pictured), you could always take the unsophisticated slapstick approach. Just remember to watch your back …



  • This one is a fantastic hoax


    Posted by Sarah Milligan on April 01st 2011
  • Anyone interested in American pranks, check out:

    And also there is another useful source: the series ‘Friends’, season 7 episode 16, where the ‘shadow-game’ and other funny practical jokes are presented.

    Posted by Henrietta Vaska [HUN] on April 16th 2011
  • Thanks very much for sharing the links, Henrietta and Sarah! Very funny.
    It’s amazing what people will fall for …

    Posted by Sophie Hern on April 19th 2011

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