Improv Learning Links

Improvisation is a style of theatre that includes unscripted scenes performed as the actors create them on the spot.  They may range from short games, or long form plays or even musicals! Improv games are often used in acting classes to reinforce different performance skills such as focus, character development, listening and effective communication.   The rules are the similar across theatre companies and drama classes. Some examples are:

  1. Always accept the given circumstances. Say “yes” to the conditions established for the scene.
  2. Humor should be universal.  Inside or potentially offensive jokes aren’t funny to everyone.
  3. Unexpected, ironic physical and vocal choices are the most fun for audiences and actors.  Think out of the box!
  4. Work as a team.   Listen well, speak loudly and clearly, and set your scene partners up to succeed.
  5. Think fast!  Improv scenes are quick and encourage physical and vocal energy.

Improvisational theatre games are not just fun, they are wonderfully educational!  Children learn through play.  Sometimes they may get stuck making up a story on paper but if you can have them begin with a physical action, the ideas come before you know it.   Some examples are:

Magic Rocks – Kids hunch over like rocks on the ground.  Say an action for them to play (depending on your learning focus you may emphasize which parts of speech you want them to explore).  Regardless,  be creative and always use ACTIVE verbs.  For example:  “A snake sneaking up on its prey” or “flying a broken space ship”.  Most kids will begin to add words or sound effects.  Their short play may eventually include a beginning, middle, and end.    After a  few seconds – when you can see they have run out of ideas, call “Magic Rocks” again.  The children transition to the magic rocks position on the floor and then you suggest another action.  After several “scenes”, ask the kids which pieces were the most fun to play and why.  Those scenes will make fun, creative stories to write!  Physically playing  scenes (rather than just brainstorming on paper) often encourages kids to get out of their heads and away from passive sentences.  Skills: quick thinking, active verbs, beginning-middle-end, listening to transitions.

13 Questions – This is a talking game and may be played with a group in a circle or in the car on a road trip… It only needs 2 players and can be played with as many kids as you would like.  One player will be an expert on a subject of your choice.  Another player asks the expert a question regarding their “field”.   Take note of what letter the sentence begins with.  The expert responds with an answer that begins with the next letter of the alphabet.  Players take turns asking questions until they have gotten all the way through the alphabet.  For instance:

(Player B will be the expert on dinosaurs)

Player A: How long have you been studying dinosaurs?

Player B : I have been a paleontologist for 28 years.

Player C: Jurassic Park was not a true story was it?

Player B: Kevin, surely you didn’t think that film was true!

Skills: quick thinking, listening, speaking clearly, alphabet, etc.

What Are You Doing?  – This game may be played in a circle,  one on one, or even without movement in the car.  Choose a  fun topic such as a specific location, group of people,  or activity.  For example:  Ancient Egypt.   Player A begins a random action and sound effect.  Player B asks, “What are you doing?” (remind kids to ask politely and not sarcastically because you are creating a team environment). Player A replies with a verb/direct object clause that 1. fits the theme 2. does not repeat any verb or noun already used in the game.  Player B then begins to “play” that scene.  For instance: If Player A says “building a pyramid”, then Player B must act like s/he is building a pyramid.  Play moves to the right.  Player C asks Player B “What are you doing?”.  Player B offers a clause having to do with Ancient Egypt such as “wrapping a mummy” or “paddling down the Nile”.  The words “building” and “pyramid” are now off limits.  If you play to win, then a player is eliminated if 1. s/he hesitates, 2. repeats a subject or verb, or says 3. something off topic.  This game is also a great vocabulary builder and encourages active verbs (things we want to WATCH you do).  Other skills include: listening, speaking clearly, quick thinking.

Improvisation is a lot of fun and many of the games may be converted from performance formats to conversational style.  Stay tuned for more opportunities and game sessions coming soon!