April Fool’s Day

Age range: 12-18 (or older)
Suitable after 2- 3 years of English.
Theme: April Fool’s Day, humour and practical jokes.
Lexical area: Imperatives and descriptions of practical jokes
Cross curricular links: personal and social education, history.
Internet links:

Instructions for assistants are in italics.

  1. Your sense of humour

    Try to support this discussion with funny pictures, an easy joke, a couple of cartoons from magazines or newspapers or on line (Private Eye, Punch, The New Yorker). Which cartoon is funny? Give concrete examples of practical jokes from your childhood or things which make your family laugh. Talk about films that students will know. The time spent on this depends on their level. A higher level can discuss in pairs after an introduction with you.

    a. Which of these types of things make you laugh?

    1. Practical jokes or pranks played on other people, e.g. a person falling into a swimming pool with all their clothes on (probably pushed by their friends for a joke) or putting a false snake in your brother’s bed!

    2. A cartoon with lots of silly voices and larger than life characters, e.g. animals who speak like humans or toys who behave like real people.

    3. A comedy film or TV comedy show with a story full of misunderstandings and mistaken identity, e.g.someone thinks someone is a different person and there is a lot of confusion and funny consequences or silly things happen to people.

    4. A joke told by friends or family, e.g. a silly story or a two line question and answer.

    5. Stand up comedy, e.g. stand up comedians tell lots of funny stories and short jokes for half an hour to make you laugh as much as possible. Sometimes the jokes all cover the same topic: my boss or my mother in law.

    b. Do you feel comfortable with these types of humour? Or do you feel uncomfortable? Some people hate being the victim of a practical joke. Some people love telling their friends stupid stories.

    c. Is there a class clown or class fool in your class? Someone who makes everyone laugh? Someone who does stupid things? How do they do this?

    d. How do you rate your sense of humour?

      8 - 10: I laugh at anything and everything. I find it difficult to control myself and have such fun!

      6 - 8: I laugh at most things and people know I enjoy funny things

      3 - 5: It takes a very funny story or thing to make me laugh. I only like very specific films or jokes.

      0 - 2: I hate practical jokes and comedy films. I cannot understand why people are laughing.

  2. April Fool’s Day: What do you know?

    If you know that this day is celebrated you can start by writing April 1st on the board and ask them to think of as many words they associate with this day. You can also give the statements for exercise 3) before the students read the text. They can then predict the answers in pairs before going on to read.

    a. Do you know what April Fool’s Day is?

    b. Does anything happen in your country on this day?

    c. Do you know the origin of this day?

      April Fool’s Day

      The origins

      April Fool’s Day is celebrated on 1st April in the UK. It is the day when people play practical jokes on each other. This tradition originated in France. The French used to celebrate the New year for eight days starting from March 25th until April 1st. In 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced which put January 1st as the first day of the new year.

      However, there were still people who refused to accept the new calendar and they continued to celebrate new year on April 1st. Some people did not know about the change. All these people were called April fools and people made jokes about them or played tricks on them. The tradition spread to other European countries and then to the USA.

      The jokes and the hoaxes.

      April Fool’s day is enjoyed by a lot of people in the UK. Children and adults play practical jokes on each other. Newspapers write silly stories that are not true and the TV companies sometimes show programmes that are not true. Many of the stories in the media are easy to believe because they seem true! The most famous hoax story happened in 1957. The BBC showed a documentary about the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. This documentary showed farmers picking spaghetti from trees! In 1957 a lot of people in the UK believed this story because not many people cooked pasta. Nowadays pasta is an important part of the British diet and everyone knows it doesn’t grow on trees.

      So if you are in the UK on 1st April, do not believe everything you see on TV or read in the papers. Be careful when you listen to the radio too. Last year a disc jockey on Radio 1 pretended it was Friday. April 1st was on a Saturday. Lots of silly people went to work because they believed the radio! Do you think that is funny? Or is it cruel?

  3. Read and answer 'True or False'

      The tradition began in the UK (False, in France)
      In 1581 April 1st was New Year’s Day in France (Yes, it changed the following year)
      Everyone accepted the Gregorian calendar (False, some refused and some just didn’t know about it)
      Only young people play practical jokes in the UK (false, all ages are involved)
      A hoax story is not a true story (True. It can be very close to the truth)
      Spaghetti grows on trees (False!)

  4. April Fool’s Day in your country

    If the day has no special significance or traditions you can focus on another date that might be important like April 25th or May 1st. Try to check this with colleagues before the lesson. Otherwise go straight on to the general questions on practical jokes and humour. Is there a comedian that is popular? Do they recommend any comedy shows? Is satire popular?

    Describe what happens in your country or region on April 1st. Are there any special traditions? Do people in your country like playing practical jokes? What types of humour are popular in your country or area?

  5. Which is the funniest?

    Discuss the first example and try to get over the idea of the consequences. The joke is perhaps dangerous if someone really suffers (missed exam!) or cruel if you put a spider in someone’s soup when you know they are very afraid of them or have a phobia. Let students work in pairs or groups then hold a class vote and feedback session. Notice that the jokes described use the impersonal ‘You’ form for giving instructions but you could also use the imperative too. Encourage students to use these forms when explaining how to do their jokes. However, you would use the gerund when talking about joke types: I think putting insects in people’s clothes is fun. Changing dates and times can be dangerous and not very funny.

    Look at this list of typical practical jokes played in the UK. Put them in order of how funny you think they are. 1 is the funniest and 6 is the least funny. Are any of them cruel?

      You point to someone’s shoe and say ‘Your shoe is untied’.
      You put a bucket of water at the top of a door and it falls on someone’s head when they open the door. (Note this could really hurt someone).
      You put a false spider in your brother’s breakfast.
      You put salt in the sugar bowl.
      You set the clock to one hour ahead of the real time What would happen if the clock was one hour behind?
      You tell a friend that school has been cancelled for a day or an exam has been cancelled. What might be the consequences for your friend? And for you?

  6. Do you know any April Fool’s jokes?

    Ask what jokes they could play on teachers (if appropriate), on family and on friends Explain one joke. In one room where people work if the PCs are back to back, you can change the mouse for each machine over – don’t unplug, just switch- then watch the resulting confusion. Mix up everyone’s coats and hats in a school cloakroom and watch the chaos at the end of lessons.

    Explain your joke and vote for the best jokes in the class.
    Have you ever played a practical joke on someone? Tell your partner about it.
    Have you ever been the victim of a practical joke? What happened? How did you feel?

  7. Discussion

    Mark Twain said: ‘the first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year’. What did he mean? Do you agree?


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