Teaching Humorous Fiction? Tickle Kids’ Funny Bones!

Teaching humorous fiction? Launch your genre study with short, age-appropriate reading passages. Analyze and discuss characters, settings, dialogue, language, and plot. Then ask kids to write their own funny parodies. You’ll love the results!

Ms. Sneed Begins Teaching Humorous Fiction

Our favorite fourth grade teacher stood in front of her class. “Good morning, everyone,” called Ms. Sneed. “Today we’re getting started on a new genre study: humorous fiction.”

“Now that’s funny,” one student joked, and the class laughed.

Teaching Humorous Fiction Elements

“Has anyone ever read a book in this genre?” asked Ms. Sneed.

Lots of kids raised their hands. When the teacher signaled that they could call out freely, book titles rang out:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid!”

Captain Underpants!”

The Stinky Cheese Man!”

“Well, I guess you’ll like it when I start teaching humorous fiction!” Ms. Sneed said. “But I have to ask you: What makes it funny?”

The students threw out a few ideas. Some said they laughed when the story was dumb; others mentioned clever incidents, as well as when someone did something wrong.

Ms. Sneed slid an anchor chart onto the projector. “When something unexpected or inappropriate happens, we laugh. That’s called a whammy.” She continued with definitions of types of humor.

Teaching humorous fiction? Start with an anchor chart that lays out elements of the genre.
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Warming Up with Puns and Jokes

“Next,” said Ms. Sneed, “I have a surprise for you.”

As she distributed some papers, she explained. “I wanted to start teaching humorous fiction with some puns and jokes.”

The students sat up straighter. Some smiled.

“Puns may use double entendre. In other words, they have two meanings. For example, ‘Broken pencils are pointless.’ That can mean that the tips of broken pencils are broken off. On the other hand, it can mean that broken pencils have no use. Clever, right?

“Another way we use puns can be found in riddles. For example, ‘Why does Peter Pan always fly?'”

After sitting in silence for a few moments, Ms. Sneed said, “Because he Neverlands.” Although a few kids laughed right away, some had to think about it. A slow wave of giggles spread across the room.

“Now look on the backside of your paper,” said Ms. Sneed. “Knock-knock jokes will also get you thinking about the funny business of humorous fiction.”

Before long, the students were immersed in puns, jokes, and malapropisms. Of course, they shared them with their neighbors too!

Teaching humorous fiction? Warm up with some puns and jokes.

Teaching Humorous Fiction with Short Reading Passages

Over the course of the next week, Ms. Sneed’s explored the genre with four reading passages:

  • “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
  • “About Elizabeth Eliza’s Piano”
  • “Whitewashing the Fence” (famous excerpt from Tom Sawyer)
  • “Chicken-Diddle” (AKA “Chicken Little”)

For each passage, kids answered questions and explored what made the story funny. Although they were only part-way into the genre study, Ms. Sneed was already enjoying teaching humorous fiction. (And the kids were too!)

Kids read four funny stories and answer questions.

Exploring Parody

Before launching the writing portion of the genre study, Ms. Sneed had one more story for her class. “Today,” she said, “we will be reading another version of ‘Chicken-Diddle.’ This parody imitates the story in a funny way.”

After reading, the class discussed strategies used by the author. Although she used a parallel story line, she chose a new motif: food. The characters, setting, and events were cleverly altered to retell the story in a funny way.

“Next,” said Ms. Sneed, “you’ll write your own parodies.”

“Yay!” her students cried.

When teaching humorous fiction, move from reading to writing with a parody.

Teaching Humorous Fiction Writing

The next day, Ms. Sneed was ready to teach humorous fiction writing. At this grade level, she liked to present bite-sized pieces to help kids work their way through the writing process.

Choosing a Fairy Tale

“To write your humorous fiction story,” the teacher told her class, “you will first choose a fairy tale. Then you will write a parody of it. As a matter of fact, these stories have a name: fractured fairy tales.”

She laid multiple copies of ten fairy tales on the table and let each student choose one.

“As you read,” Ms. Sneed said, “think about a possible motif for your parody. Remember how ‘Chicken Griddle’ used a food theme? What will yours be? The sky is the limit!”

When teaching humorous fiction, ask each student to pick a fairy tale and write a funny parody.

Developing Writing

After her students determined a motif, they developed the characters and setting around it. Using a story arc, they organized the plot.

Before drafting, they reviewed the rules for writing dialogue and generated some possible direct quotes.

Then Ms. Sneed explained how to weave in elements of fairy tales and humorous fiction:

  • Fairy tales generally begin with once upon a time and end with happily ever after. They often use numbers like three or seven.
  • Humorous fiction includes a whammy. It may also use puns, repetition, and/or exaggeration.

After the kids had jotted down some ideas, the teacher handed out two more pages. “In your story, the characters will talk. Let’s review rules for writing dialogue. Then you can practice with some lines to use in your own story.”

As Ms. Sneed circulated around the classroom, she reflected on teaching humorous fiction. Not only did it grab kids’ attention, the reading-writing combination let her reinforce some important skills!

Focus kids' writing with specific strategies specific to humorous fiction.

The next day, the students drafted their fractured fairy tales. Using their organizers, the process was seamless. Along the way, they shared funny anecdotes with their neighbors.


Next, Ms. Sneed continued teaching humorous fiction writing strategies. For several days, her students worked on varying sentence structure, improving word choice, and adding transitions. After that, they used checklists to edit their work.

When teaching humorous fiction, ask kids to revise and refine their stories.

Enjoy Teaching Humorous Fiction

Finally, Ms. Sneed’s class typed the final drafts of their stories, added images, and printed their finished work.

“What masterpieces!” the teacher exclaimed. Then, as usual, she created a big display in the hall. As she stood back and admired their work, a smile spread across her face. Yes, teaching humorous fiction was fun – and educational.

The Power of Genre Studies

Whether you’re teaching humorous fiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, mythologies, or fables, genre studies engage students like never before. When you scaffold learning from reading short stories to writing, kids have fun while honing their ELA skills.

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