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Teaching Class Clowns (And What They Can Teach Us)

Teaching Class Clowns (And What They Can Teach Us)

Foreword by Sally Butzin

May 2006 | 152 pages | Corwin
Every teacher knows who the class clown(s) are, as does every assistant principal, guidance counselor, and administrator in the school building. Reaching and teaching class clowns, however, requires instructional strategies rarely, if ever, taught in college or in-service workshops.

Until now! Author William Watson Purkey offers readers this lively, informative, and concise guide to teaching class clowns. Whether teaching elementary, middle school, or high school grades, every teacher will find something of value here to help these gifted but at-risk learners find the right way to succeed in school and in life.

Foreword by Sally Butzin
About the Author
1. Appreciating Class Clowns

The Case for Class Clowns

Having Fun as a Teaching Strategy

Breeding Ground for Professional Comedians

Who Is a Class Clown?

The Value of Cheerfulness


2. Understanding Class Clowns.
Humor Brain Drain

Friendly Clowns and Hostile Clowns

Friendly Clowns

Hostile Clowns

Class Clown Relationships

The Art of Clowning

Tribulations of Class Clowns

Signature Tendencies of Class Clowns


3. Investing
The Value of Investing

How to Teach Class Clowns Through Investing

Share Responsibilities

Form Triads

Spotlight Talent

Modify the Grading System

Encourage Special Interest Groups

What Class Clowns Can Teach Us About Investing

Any Attempt Is a Victory

If it’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Poorly

Be a Rubber Ball


4. Asserting
The Value of Asserting

How to Teach Class Clowns Through Asserting

Be Positive With Directives

Use No-Cut Contracts

Promote Civility

Involve Clowns in Decisions

What Class Clowns Can Teach Us About Asserting

Keep a Sense of Humor

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Challenge Authority

Promote Democratic Values


5. Relating
The Value of Relating

How to Teach Class Clowns Through Relating

Use Inclusive Pronouns

Brighten the Classroom

Build Class Spirit

Conduct Field Studies

Play That Funky Music

What Class Clowns Can Teach Us About Relating

Savor Every Moment

Enjoy Life

Fight Fair


6. Coping
The Value of Coping

How to Teach Class Clowns Through Coping

Keep the Volcano From Erupting

Listen to the Ice

Follow the Six C’s

What Class Clowns Can Teach Us About Coping

Capitalize on Bad Moments

Count on Serendipity

Find Humor in Frustrations

Be Suspicious of Hearsay


A Final Encore


"An innovative topic, well presented. Any educator who reads this book without cracking a smile or having a good belly laugh is in the wrong business! Purkey's delightful expose about class clowns and the lessons to learn from them offers much needed fresh air and insightful messages."

John J. Schmidt, Professor of Counselor Education
East Carolina University

"Purkey's stories, research, wisdom, wit, and humor constantly encourage the reader to read on. He invites everyone to make the world a better place by adhering to his eight rules for a cheerful life."

Harvey A. Smith, Campus Minister
The State University of New York at Postam

"For a class clown reading this book was like looking into a mirror. But I looked, sounded, and seemed smarter in Purkey's mirror."

Tim Cusack, Speaker, Trainer, Actor
Owner of "Laughter That Matters", Grand Rapids, MI

"Humor is a super teaching instrument. Properly channeled, class clowns can provide sunshine for both the mind and heart in any classroom."

Newsletter of the Association of American Schools of Central America, Colombia, Caribbean & Mexico

"Provides an excellent description of the characteristics of class clowns and makes recommendations concerning how to teach them. This book would be particularly instructive for new teachers who are just learning about the ups and downs of different types of classroom behaviors."

Gifted Education News-Page, August/September 2006

"Teachers are given suggestions on how to emphasize fun in learning activities, channel humor positively, and create a classroom atmosphere that fosters the development of talents, especially the gift of humor. This core message is consistent with the strength-based approach of positive psychology."

PsycCRITIQUES, August 2007, Vol. 52(33)

“Sounding like a veteran professor, a concerned father, and a clown himself, Purkey spends much time defending some of the most challenging—and often engaging—students in the classroom. His empathy for these students is apparent, but he is realistic too. Purkey’s strategies will help any teacher struggling to manage the behavior of a class clown or another problematic student.”

Middle Ground Magazine, August 2007, Vol. 11(1)
National Middle Schools Association

I wanted to look at this book because it could have been about me. I use it as a suggested reading in all the teaching and education classes because it lends important insight into the character of this type student

Mrs Anne Pinchera
Other, Excelsior College
December 6, 2010

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1


For instructors

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ISBN: 9781412937252