Posted in Drama Activities for children, Drama for children, drama for kids, Drama strategies, Drama techniques, Elements of Drama, Esl Drama, Improvisation, Improvisation around bullying

Improvisation for beginners

What is improvisation?

Improvisation is theatre without a script. The performers hear it for the first time at the same time as the audience. Improvisation is shared creation. Improvisers make it up on the spot, often working from a suggestion from others. We build ideas step by step, using, “Accept the offer and build on it.”.

 This means that the improvisers must  listen carefully and add to what their partner is offering.

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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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’.
  4. 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’
  5. 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.

Warm up improvisation activity: Word Ball

Word ball is another simple game but regards a high level of concentration. It works by gathering the students into a circles and ‘throwing’ words around.

  1. Choose any word to begin with (e.g. cat) and place your hands as if you were holding the word in them, then ‘throw’ the word using both your voice and your hands to a member of the group.
  2. The member of the group must ‘catch’ the word, and then throw the first word that comes to mind (e.g. cuddly) to the next member of the group.
  3. The next member ‘catches’ this word, and throws the first associated word that pops into their head (e.g. teddy bear) to the next person. The exercise continues like this until everybody has had plenty of chances to throw words around. Try to dissuade students from hesitating and encourage them to simply go with the first thing that comes to mind, reminding them that there is no such thing as wrong or right when it comes to improv.

Some  Simple Rules for improvisation:

It’s time to introduce some basic rules of improv. Although there is no right or wrong, there are rules that can help in the creation of improvisational theatre.

RULE ONE: Offer and Accept

There’s nothing worse when doing improv than working with somebody who constantly negates your ideas. e.g.

A: Wow, did you see that elephant over there?

B: No. What are you talking about?

Negating an idea forces your partner to do all the work by coming up with idea after idea. In the example above, B has stopped the flow of the scene by rejecting A’s offer. If he had accepted it, the scene could continue quite easily:

A: Wow, did you see that elephant over there?

B: WOW! That’s the biggest elephant I’ve ever seen! Where do you suppose it came from?

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.

  1. Divide the class into two even lines, call one line A, and the other line B. Have the two lines face each other
  2. 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.

3.   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.

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

RULE TWO: Keep Questions Direct

Open-ended questions can really stump your partner as you are essentially forcing them to do the work in the scene. For example, starting a scene by saying

– What’s going on here? means someone else has to supply the information for the scene. A better way to go about it would be to say

-Why are you Riding that horsurs Here, you are still asking a question but are also supplying your partners with information while you do it.

The most basic ground rule is that there is no right or wrong. Something that inhibits a lot of students is the worry that they are somehow doing something wrong. Improv is about going with your impulses and creating something from them. While there are some rules we will cover in this lesson that can make improv easier, there is no right or wrong.

Teach your students to repeat these questions and answers to themselves when they are feeling unsure:

– How do I do it?

– Just do it.

– Am I doing it right?

– Yes

What are you doing? Improvisation activity:

Group stands in a circle. One person goes into the centre of the circle and starts an action (such as brushing her teeth).

A person goes into the centre, and asks, “What are you doing?”

The person brushing her teeth answers by saying something other than what she is doing. “I’m dribbling a basketball.”

The first person then leaves, and the new person starts “dribbling a basketball.” Then a new person goes in and asks, “What are you doing?”

And so on…

Encourage students to make new choices each time. (No repeats.)

Newspaper Headlines

In a group of 3 pr4, chose one of the following headlines:

Airline removes passenger who won’t stop doing pull ups.

Arrest over theft of £5million gold toilet from palace.

Fisherman gets shock, as he reels in dinosaur like fish with huge eyes.

Two headed snake, named Double Dave found in the forest.

Woman dreams of swallowing a ring and wakes up to find she has.

Queen returns pet monkey to girl.

Make a still image, freeze frame, mime, improvise the story.

 

Airline removes passenger who won’t stop doing pull ups.

 

Arrest over theft of £5million gold toilet from palace.

 

Fisherman gets shock, as he reels in dinosaur like fish with huge eyes.

 

Two headed snake, named Double Dave found in the forest.

 

Woman dreams of swallowing a ring and wakes up to find she has.

 

Queen returns pet monkey to girl.

Some other links:

Therapeutic Storytelling 

Anti bullying workshop for children

Author:

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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