There are many different methods and techniques out there designed to add a little bit more excitement and interest to the classroom. Improv is one of those skills.
Not just suitable for comedy acts or drama class, improv can be a valuable tool for students when it comes to a whole host of skills, including:
- Creative thinking
- Problem solving
- Empathetic learning
According to James Stanfield, the benefits of improv go far beyond what we measure as success in the classroom. This vital activity can help students to understand and accept failure, appreciate the humor in communication, and even help them understand that people have individual opinions and ideas.
With many different soft skills benefiting from the introduction of improv, it’s a surprise it’s not more of a staple in modern-day classrooms. According to Jessica of Improve for Creative Pedagogy via We Are Teachers, improv can be a powerful tool in the classroom. For cooperative learning, team building, and even listening, improv is far more than just a gimmick. So how can you go about including this vital acting skill in your upcoming lesson plans? There are countless ways to use improv, but here are just a few ideas to get you started:
We often think of improv as taking a great deal of time and effect to work well. But utilizing this skill in the classroom can be as simple as thinking up something small on the spot.
For example, an ice-breaking activity where students sit in a circle. In this case, one student must say their name and come up with a unique movement in the same moment. The rest of the class should then mimic both the name and the action. This uses improv in an introductory and straightforward way, ideal for smaller children. While each student is asked to invent a move ‘on the spot,’ there is less higher-level thinking required.
A classic improv game that many teachers have heard of is ‘Yes, and…’. In this game, students develop communication skills by contributing to an ongoing story. This is often played in pairs and begins with one sentence. This could be something as simple as ‘We’re having a party for George.’ Then, the other student is required to continue the story immediately, without time to think of an answer.
An example of how this may look is:
- We’re having a party for George
- Yes, and it’s going to be at the zoo
- Yes, and there are going to be giraffes
- Yes, and his favorite animal is giraffes so he will enjoy it
- Yes, and his gift will be a giraffe toy
In this way, each student must listen to the other and respond accordingly with as little a gap as possible. Through this kind of improv, students can develop skills in communication as well as sharing and listening. To create an enjoyable – and often humorous – story.
Words on your back
Some improv sessions are more suited to pairs, which can make games challenging to work in a larger classroom. But some improv, like ‘words on your back,’ is designed to build upon teamwork in larger groups. In this game, one student will have a word on their back. Based on this word, students have a time limit to act out a scenario where they give clues about the word. The goal is for the first student to be able to guess the word, without speaking it out loud during improv. This helps to build teamwork by encouraging students to work together towards a goal.
Do you think improv is suitable for the classroom?