Posted in Drama techniques, expressive arts

Improvisation and Social Anxiety

What is improvisation and why is useful for social anxiety?

Improvisation is theatre without a script. Improvisation is a shared creation. Improvisers make it up on the spot. The reason it’s effective for social anxiety is that improvisation builds ideas step by step, using the core principle of “Yes, and” or, as it is sometimes called, “Accept and build”.

Improvisers are encouraged to closely listen and add to what their partner is offering and discover what is really happening in an interaction. This can create complex ideas and scenes simply by the accumulation of a sequence of smaller steps.

Drama Game One:

Beginner improvisation activity: 1, 2, 3 Counting

This is a very popular warm-up and one Augusto Boal mentions in his book ‘Games for Actors and Non-Actors’. The premise is simple yet requires concentration.

  1. Divide the group into pairs and ask the members of each group to name themselves either A or B.
  1. Ask them to count to three as a pair with A saying ‘1’, B saying ‘2’, A saying ‘3’, B saying’1′, A saying ‘2’, B saying ‘3’ etc.
  1. Now ask the As in each group to come up with a sound and movement that will replace ‘1’. The pair will continue counting with each partner substituting the sound and movement for the number ‘1’.
  1. Now ask the Bs in each group to come up with a sound and movement that will replace ‘2’. The pair will continue counting with each partner substituting As sound and movement for the number ‘1’, and Bs sound and movement for the number ‘2’
  1. Now ask A to come up with another sound and movement, this time for the number ‘3’. By now, there should be no numbers heard, only the unique sounds and movements that have been substituted for each number.

This exercise is simple and low-pressure yet begins to awaken the creative muscles by calling on students to create movement and sound on the spot.

Drama Game Two:

Yes, and improvisation activity:

This is a nice little game that trains students to accept offers and add to them. Like in the second example above, B accepts the existence of the elephant, and offers a question as an addition to his acceptance.

Divide the class into two even lines, call one line A, and the other line B. Have the two lines face each other

Begin with the students who are at the top of the lines. Ask the student in the A line to come up with an offer. The student in the B line must accept and add to it. A must then accept B’s addition, and add to it again. e.g.:

A: Would you like to cut my hair for me?

B:Yes!I have a hairdressing set in my room, let’s do it there.

A: Great! I’ll bring a picture of what I want it to look like.

When they’re finished, each student will go to the end of the opposite line (i.e. The student from line A will go to the end of line B, the line B student will go to the end of line A), and the next two students will have their chance to go.

Keep this game going until all students have had a chance to be in both lines.

For some more reading on improvisation and social anxiety check out the articles below:

Psychology Today.

The Guardian

Some other links:

Therapeutic Storytelling 

Anti bullying workshop for children



This is a resource site for Early Education and Primary school educators. The blog shares ideas for teaching creative drama/ drama in education to children.

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