Good Measure

play by Philippa Werry , illustrated by Aśka

Learning intention

I am learning to experiment with using wordplay to create humour so that I can make the texts I produce more humorous when desired.

Success criteria

  • I can identify humour in a text.
  • I can discuss why certain jokes are funny.
  • I can compose jokes featuring wordplay.
  • I can include my jokes in an exert for a play.


Prior to reading Good Measure display the following jokes:

  • The duck said to the wait staff, put it on my bill.
  • The past, present and future had a conversation. It was tense.

Discuss what makes each of these jokes funny ensuring students identify the following:

  • the wordplay with using the dual meanings of the word ‘bill’ (to mean a beak and a docket for payment) provides the humour to the first joke
  • the fact the word ‘tense’ has two meanings (being associated with the past, present and future and also meaning a dispute) makes the second joke funny.


Inform students that these kinds of jokes are called wordplay and that this means the meaning and ambiguities of words, particularly homophones, are used to create humour.

Read Good Measure. Discuss the humor in the play ensuring students note that much of the humour is created through wordplay. Discuss a few examples of humorous wordplay from the play and either highlight these on a photocopy of the play or affix post-it-notes to the examples in a copy of the magazine. Place students with a partner and instruct them to identify further examples of humour created due to wordplay. Students can identify examples by highlighting on a photocopy of the play, by using post-it-notes or by recording their responses in their workbooks. Answers include:


  • MS METRICAL How long will it take?

ODO How long? That’s an excellent question. Let’s start with this table. Have you got a measuring tape…


  • MS METRICAL Should I keep teaching, or should I wait for you to finish?

THEO Weight? Certainly. Just let me get out my portable scales.

THEO … We’ll start by weighing some of these books… One and a half kilograms-there must be some heavy thinking in that one.


  • SAM Ms. Metrical, this is getting very boring.

FLUVIO Boring? Did you say boring? You’re quite right. (Looks in bag.) Now, where is my new Bathometer? And where’s the best place to drill a hole in here?


  • MS METRICAL Hmm, that sounds useful.

THEO Sounds? Of course, we record sounds too. I’ll just get my special Decibel Detector.

Inform students that they will be experimenting with composing their own examples of humour created through wordplay. Tell them that first you will be working on an example as a class. Refer students back to the play emphasising that it focuses on things that can be measured and that it includes a number of fictional ideas such as a Scentimeter for measuring smells and a Grumpometer for measuring how grumpy your teacher is. Discuss students’ ideas for inventions of things that might be used for measuring, providing ideas such as:

  • Funometer for measuring how fun a lesson is
  • Presentometer for measuring how much you love a gift
  • Funkometer for measuring how funky a song is
  • Hairstyleometer for measuring whether your hairstyle suits you.

Select one of these examples, for example a presentometer. Tell students that they will be composing an exert from a script where a character is discussing this invention. Inform students that they should include humourous wordplay. Begin by discussing multiple meanings for the word ‘present’ noting all ideas on the board for example:

  • time, the past, present and future
  • presenting a talk to the class
  • to replace the word here when responding to a roll call

Use the think-aloud strategy to make the process of experimenting with ideas explicit. Share thoughts such as it could be funny to include more than one play on the word.

Briefly run through structural elements of composing a script such as writing the characters’ names in capital letters on the left of the page, writing what the characters say next to their names and including stage directions in brackets to allow actors to know how they should perform the lines.

Compose an extract of a play with the class, for example:

TEACHER Who would like to share the invention they have brought to class?

TOMMY (A YEAR 5 STUDENT) Presentometer

TEACHER Yes, yes Tommy, we have already taken the roll today.

TOMMY (A YEAR 5 STUDENT) No miss, I mean Presentometer as in present.

TEACHER There won’t be time for everyone to present today, Tommy. I’d rather we just quickly run through ideas.

TOMMY (A YEAR 5 STUDENT) No, I mean present.

TEACHER Yes of course the present, right here, right now.

TOMMY (A YEAR 5 STUDENT) I mean to measure how much people like gifts they are given.

TEACHER Oh, I see. Very good Tommy.

Inform students that they will be composing their own exert from a play. Place students in pairs or small groups. Tell students that they should select an invention, brainstorm ideas for potential wordplay and then compose a brief exert for a script that features humour. Tell students that some words won’t work as well for wordplay as others due to the fact they might not have multiple meanings. If students come across a word that they cannot think of humours ideas for, that they should select another. Allow time for students to compose their play exerts before performing them to another group.