Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Great ideas for using improv drama games in the classroom (activities from a teacher for English, novels, literature, books)

One of my Drama Games students at Heritage Online (hol.edu) has some excellent ways to use improv theatre games in the classroom.  Thanks Madeleine!

1. CIRCLE CRESCENDO
Players stand in a circle. The first person whispers “one, the second whispers “two” a little louder and so on around the circle growing progressively louder.

I like this because I have used a similar technique in trying to get students to use “inside voices” in working in small groups in my class. I have one student begin reciting the Pledge of Allegiance repeatedly in normal voice. A second person joins him and so on around the room with each person continuing to recite in a normal voice. By the time the last student begins “the pledge” the room is at a dull roar! It makes a pretty convincing argument for monitoring our voices.

I will also use this game in my Leadership class to encourage quieter students to speak up loudly enough for the entire class to hear when they are doing a presentation or teaching a lesson.

2. COOPERATIVE BALL TOSS
Players stand in a circle. The teacher begins by making eye contact with a student and then tossing the ball to him. That player makes eye contact with another student and tosses the ball to her and so on until a pattern is established. Once everyone has received the ball in the circle, more balls are introduced. Sort of a group juggle!

I like this activity and have used a similar model in learning names at the beginning of the school year. It’s a great way to get students to work together. Each player introduces him or herself around the circle first. Then, instead of merely making eye contact and throwing the ball, a student must call out that student’s name before tossing it. That student calls out the name of another student and tosses it, etc., and the pattern is established. I also usually throw around stuffed animals and something like a rubber chicken rather than mere balls . Lots of laughs!

I have taught this activity to the students in my Leadership class (mentors) to use when they complete a lesson early and have extra time to spend with their mentees. They can use this as simply a fun activity, but it also helps them continue to try to learn everyone’s name in the clas.

3. LIVING CLAY
The class is divided into groups of five or six. One person is the sculpture who works with the bodies in his group to form a sculpture such as a sunken ship, table and chairs, etc. At the end, it might be possible to include all groups to create a final scene.

I like this because I can use it in an ESL class to teach vocabulary using TPR (Total Physical Response). I also often have small groups of students create “tableaus” from the short stories that we read such as Rikki Tikki Tavi The living clay/sculpture would be a variation of this tableau idea. Kids love it!I am using this “living clay”/tableau idea in my Creative Thinkers class as we study A 

Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sometimes the students don’t entirely understand what they have read, but once they create the tableau, the scene makes sense!

4. IT’S A WHAT???
The class sits in a circle. The GIVER starts off by handing an object (a pen) to the person sitting on his right (THE RECEIVER) and says “This is a pen.” The RECEIVER says, “It’s a WHAT?” GIVER: “A pen.” RECEIVER takes the pen and says, “Oh, it’s a pen.” She turns to the person on her right and they repeat the same conversation ending with “It’s a WHAT?” Then, the new GIVER turns to the original GIVER and says, “It’s a WHAT?” The GIVER says, “It’s a pen.” This continues back down to the new RECEIVER who then becomes the GIVER by handing the pen to the person on his left.

This exercise sounds confusing but it is very fun. I like it and use it often in my classes as an icebreaker because it helps us focus on whole group cooperation. Instead of saying, “It’s a pen” and then handing a pen to someone, I choose something completely different -- perhaps a stuffed animal -- and then I call it A SHOE. This makes the activity even more fun because the students really mean it when they ask, “It’s a WHAT???”

I just taught It’s a What?? to my Leadership students. They will use it as a fun activity after they complete teaching the week’s lesson to their mentees. As it starts to get colder and they are unable to go outside, this will be an entertaining activity to use inside the classroom.

5. THE MINISTER’S CAT
The group sits in a circle. One person begins by describing the minister’s cat with the letter A. The next person must use the next consecutive letter B to describe the minister’s cat. For example, “The minister’s cat is a BASHFUL cat”, and so on.

I like this game because I think it could be easily adapted in my language arts class to review parts of speech and literary elements. (The minister’s cat sits in a spooky spot, etc.)

I will use this game specifically to teach adverbs: The minister’s cat meows awkwardly, the minister’s cat sleeps blissfully, etc.

6. DID YOU HEAR?
The players are divided into groups of 3. One member counts out loud by fours which the other two try to distract him by whispering fairy tales or nursery rhymes in his ear. After the counter reaches 100, he tries to recount what was being said to him.

I like this game because I think I could adapt it for my ELA classes and have the two disrupt the counter by whispering parts of the plot of the novel we are reading.

This is another great activity for my Leadership kids to use when they finish working with their mentors.

7. ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR
The game repeats four basic movements: touch head with both hands, touch shoulders with both hands, touch hips with both hands, slap right foot with right hand. This is done in silence. To make things more interesting the tempo can be increased or variations may be introduced.

I like this because I think it would be a great warm-up exercise for my Leadership kids. It is an activity that they could easily use with the small groups that they mentor.

This is also a fun activity to do midday when kids are tired after lunch or at the end of the day to reinvigorate them. It really wakes them up!

8. SNAP CLAP
Players sit in a circle a rhythmic pattern is established like SNAP CLAP, then a category is chosen. The leader says the name of an item that fits into the category, the player next to her goes next ands says something else that fits into the category on the next snap. This continues all the way around the circle with an item contributed on each snap.

I like this because I think middle schoolers enjoy rhythmic games like they used to do in elementary school. We don’t have enough fun games in middle school! I could use it in my ELA class as a fun way to practice parts of speech.

I used snap-clap as the kids introduced themselves to each other so that we could learn their names. It was great fun!

9. ALIEN, TIGER, COW
Everyone sits in a big circle. Before the game, students learn about three creatures and the gesture and sound effects that go with each: alien, cow, tiger. At the signal, each player chooses one of the three creatures to portray. The idea is for everyone to be in sync and become the same creature without using any form of communication.

I like this because middle schoolers like to act goofy. It would get them up and moving. I could use it with modifications in my ELA classes to teach characterization.

I will use this activity when my 7th grade classes read Rikki Tikki Tavi. It is a great way to learn and characterize the many animal characters in the story.

10. A STORY TO TELL
Students get in a circle. The leader whispers the name of a person, place or thing to each player. At a signal, one play begins telling an original story and, within 10 seconds must mention the thing that was assigned to him. After ten seconds (set a timer) the player next to him continues to tell the story making sure to mention the thing that was assigned to her, etc.

I like this particularly because the 10 seconds will keep things moving. I think it would be a great way to review the plot of a story or brainstorm a new story for my ELA classes.
I am teaching my students about archetypes in literature This will be an outstanding way for students to talk about archetypes in the context of story.

11. CHARACTER WALKS
Players stand in a circle, then begin walking in one direction together in the circle. The leader calls out a command such as, “Walk as though you just found the winning lottery ticket!” The players all change the way they walk.

I like this because it gives everyone the chance to act a little silly, but even the shy kids will feel comfortable since they are acting as a whole group.
I will use this in my ELA classes to teach adverbs.

12. FREE ASSOCIATION
Players stand or sit in a circle. One person begins by calling out a word such as “snow”.

I like this because it encourages free association and creative thinking. I would use it in my Creative Thinkers Class.

This is a good activity to use in my Leadership class when talking about bullying and verbal put downs. Someone might call out a word like “stupid” and others could free-associate with it. The important part of this lesson will be the reflection questions afterwards. (Why did you immediately think of that word? How do you think it makes someone feel to be called stupid, etc. What could you say instead of “stupid” without being hurtful?)

13. THE STORY
Students sit in a circle. The teacher or leader hands each person a card with a word written on it. One student begins the story, each student has about ten second to think of another addition to the story until everyone has had a turn.

Like the A Story to Tell activity, I like this because there is a time limit on the thought process, so the group doesn’t have too much down time. I could use this in my ELA class when we are working on narrative writing. We can create narratives together through this game.

I will use this in my ELA classes. I will give students cards with literary elements on them and, in turn, they can create a story based on those elements. This is a great formative assessment for me. I can easily find the students who do not know or understand the literary element (internal conflict, climax, etc.) to which they are assigned.

14. STORY ORCHESTRA
The students face the teacher who pretends to be a conductor. As the teacher points the baton at a student, he or she begins a story. The “conductor” interrupts the story at any point and choose a new player to continue with the story.

I like this because the teacher gets to choose any child at random and everyone has to be on his or her toes. I think this would be a great way to review the plot of a story for students who were absent the previous day. It also serves as a great review when reading a class novel.

I will definitely use a variation of this in my ELA classes as a formative assessment. In addition, it is a great idea for reviewing parts of a novel.

15. WORD BALL
Students stand in a circle. The first student makes eye contact with another student across the circle and, while throwing the ball or small stuffed animal, the throwing student says a word such as “pirate”. The “catching” student makes eye contact with another student and says a word related to the previous word while throwing the ball to that student, etc.

I like this because it requires each student to make eye contact with another. It also allows for a lot of modifications. I think it would be a great way to review vocabulary in my ELA classes. It might also be a good way to practice Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes. Perhaps the thrower says a prefix such as “anti” and the catcher must give the definition. In turn, he must think of another prefix or suffix and throw to another student who must define it, etc.

I will use a variation of this game for vocabulary review. One student throws the animal to another who must reply with a related word for a synonym of that vocabulary word.

16. KNOCKING
Players sit at their desks with their eyes closed. The teacher walks around the room and knows three times on any object in the room. After the teacher walks away, the students open their eyes and try to guess on which object she knocked. If no one guesses, the students close their eyes and the teacher repeats the activity.

I like this because it requires students to use another sense other than sight and it also requires them to be silent and still. I could use this activity in my Leadership class when we talk about listening skills.

I intend to teach this activity to my Leadership students to use as a fun classroom activity with their mentees.

17. BOB FROM BOSTON
Students stand in a circle. The first student says his first name and names a city that starts with the same first letter i.e, Hi, I’m Bob from Boston. The next student repeats “Bob’s” name and adds her name and a city to it. This continues around the entire circle.

I like this because it requires students to think of a city or country to attached to his or her name. This is a great mnemonic device! I will use this the first few days of school so that we can build community and become acquainted with each other.

I actually used Bob from Boston very successfully in my classroom to learn names. The kids had fun coming up with the names of foreign countries as well as cities, so we had a mini-geography lesson, as well.

18 THAT’S ME.
Students sit at their desks. The teacher calls out something from the list. Any student who relates to it can stand up and say, “That’s Me!”

This is a great activity to get to know each other at the beginning of the year. I will also use it in my ELA classes when studying about specific characters in a story. When I call out something that relates to a character, I will ask the students to call out “That’s Him!” or the name of the specific character.

19. ADVERB VERSATILITY
Students sit in a circle. The teacher passes around a bag of adverb cards. Each student chooses a card and then is given a sentence to say such as. “Today is Monday.” Each student must try to pitch his voice, use facial expressions or body language to convey the specific adverb he is trying to relate. After the other students guess the adverb, the next student is given a different sentence and the activity continues.

I like this game because it requires students to use a different way to communicate meaning. I might use this activity in my Leadership class when we discuss verbal and nonverbal communication. 

I plan to use this as we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It will be a great way for students to get accustomed to a little Elizabethan English. I will put a line from the play on each card.

20.
SHAKESPEAREAN INSULTS
Students are divided into small groups. Each group chooses an insult from a basket and is given 5 minutes to memorize and rehearse the insult. The groups take turn “hurling” the insults at the audience.

I like this because it is a great way to introduce Shakespeare as a “playwright and man of the people” and to help students become a little acquainted with Elizabethan English. I use a similar activity to introduce my class to Shakespeare.


I plan to use a variation of this while using a Shakespeare “insult generator”. (Three lists of common Elizabethan words used by Shakespeare. A and B are adjectives, C is a noun.) Students can choose one word from each of the three lists to create their own, original Shakespearean insults.

Great ideas for using improv drama games in the classroom activities from a teacher for English, novels, literature, books

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