Teaching Humor Devices

Teaching Humor Devices to Upper Elementary Students

Understanding humor devices will not only improve students’ writing skills and comprehension but will help students understand how to respond in social situations.


This lesson focuses on three humor devices:

  • An understatement is when something is stated or presented with modesty or restraint, as to create a subtle or ironic effect.
  • A hyperbole is an obvious and deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. It is intended for effect and not to be taken literally, such as “He had a million excuses.”
  • Sarcasm is a scornfully ironic remark. The term comes from Ancient Greece. Sarcasm is an effective way to be mean to others, but the Greeks knew it could leave the user feeling a bit sore too.

This video lesson explains the difference between irony and sarcasm.

More Teaching Videos


Humor Devices Anchor Chart

Teaching Ideas

  • Have students draw illustrations of understatements, hyperbole, and sarcasm.
  • Have students locate humor devices in literature. Here is a list of picture books that contain humor devices:
    • Understatement

      • Big Old Bones by Carol Carrick
      • The House Gabbaleen by Lloyd Alexander
      • Squiggle’s Tale by Andre Dahan
      • Bewildered for Three Days: As to Why Daniel Boone Never Wore His Coonskin Cap by Andrew Glass
      • Goldilocks Returns by Lisa Campbell Ernst
      • Dread Pig of Night by Jean Gralley
      • Mama and Me and the Model T by Faye Gibbons
    • Hyperbole

      • Use tall tales. Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry are all good books for students to locate examples of hyperbole.
      • A Spoon in Every Bite by Joe Hayes
      • Trouble with Thunder Mountain by Russell Hoban
    • Irony / Sarcasm

      • The Full Belly Bow by Jim Aylesworth
      • The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
      • Switch on the Night by Ray Bradbury
      • The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
      • Click, Clack Moo, Cows by Doreen Cronin
      • Why? by Lindsay Camp
      • You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox
      • Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse
    • Cartoons

If you need some additional materials to help teach humor devices, you might like to take a look at this product on Teachers pay Teachers:

Tall Tales Unit


Gay Miller


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