Saturday, October 25, 2014

Improv theatre games for subjects like math, science and geography lesson plans (free classroom games for teachers and their students)

Here are some free classroom games you can play with your students.  Thank you to my students in my Drama Games course at (Denise and Allison) for your excellent ideas!

Money math is taught early in the 2nd grade year and with the current curriculum being used they haven't had much exposure to money, let alone money math.  In this particular school district the math curriculum touches on money some in kindergarten and first but they really do not dive into all of the specifics until 2nd grade.  What I noticed was the students have problems learning that 4 quarters equals 1 dollar or 100 pennies equals 1 dollar, etc.  They have a hard time visualizing and figuring out that you can use pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, fifty cent pieces as well as there is a dollar coin to equal a paper dollar bill, let alone the multiple variations that can occur as well.  Theatre games could help the students to learn this concept.  A theatre game that could be played is the 'Cooperative Ball Toss'.  The students could use counting by 1's, 5's, 10's, 25's and 50's to 100 when they toss the ball to one another.  Any student who does not correctly say the next number has to sit out, the last student standing is deemed the winner.  This game would help them to recall the multiples of coins.  Another theatre game that could be played is the 'Letter Number Game'.  The students sit in a large circle and the teacher starts off a concept (in this case money multiples 1's, 5's, 10's, 25's and 50's).  When first playing this I would probably start off with 1's every time as a warm up.  Once counting by 1's get around the circle a few people 5's would be start and so on and so forth.  This will have the students thinking quickly because counting by 1's will go around the circle several times whereas 5's once.  I feel that this theatre game would be beneficial to help the students to learn and retain counting by multiples.        

While looking for topics for my Masters Degree I sat in on several 2nd grade level classes and I found that this particular class had trouble when it came to learning lists of concepts/definitions for any subject.  In particular, during a science class learning about animals and their habitats the students were struggling with the terminology.  A theatre game that could be played is 'Word Ball'.  This game is played by having the students stand in a circle or oval and one student has a ball and looks across the room to make eye contact with another student and tosses the ball and says a word such as squirrel, the student receiving the ball then has to say the correct habitat that a squirrel lives in and promptly makes eye contact with another student and says a different animal, and so on.  Any student who takes too long, fails to answer the question correctly or drops the ball has to sit out. This theatre game would help the students remember at a quick pace animals as well as their habitat.  I feel that this game could be used with a number of different subjects as well as subject matter so it is a very versatile one.  

And classroom lesson ideas from the book "175 Theater Games by Nancy Hurley" 
> Circle Crescendo-The players stand in a circle. Moving around the circle, the students progressively escalate their volume from lowest to loudest while they count. I may have my students listen to classical musical first to identify the crescendo in the music before playing this game. Additionally, rather than simply counting, I may have students count in counting patterns, such as counting by 2's or 5's while using crescendo to reinforce another concept. Having students take turns being the scribe and writing the counting pattern on the board, while it's spoken, would help give visual learners another reinforcement for the concept. 
> Clap Out-The players stand in a circle. The first person says "one." The next person says, "two". The third person CLAPS instead of saying "three." The next person says, "four." The next says, "five" and the following person CLAPS instead of saying "six". In this way, they are practicing the three counting pattern. The game is written such that a person who says the wrong number or claps at the wrong time is out. I would vary this game by having the person who makes a mistake, not be "out", I would just start over the counting pattern with that person. I believe children are most likely to learn when they are engaged. I could see using this activity to teach counting any multiples, for example counting by 5's or even 10's.  I would choose one student to be the scribe and write the clapped number on the board for all to see, review and repeat at the end of the game.

> Jumpers-In this game, all players face the front of the room. On cue, everyone jumps up and down four times facing the front of the room, four times facing the right side of the room, four times facing the back, and four times facing the left. Then they jump three times in each of the directions. Then the students jump two times in each direction and finally they finish with one time in the four directions. To facilitate jumping together, everyone calls out the numbers aloud. I love the perfect cure for lethargy that this game offers. I often have the North, East, South, West coordinates labeled in my room. This would make it easier to call out which direction the students should be facing while reinforcing a critical geographical concept.

> Leading-This is a fun activity that allows kids the opportunity to be appropriately active and silly. The teacher calls out a body part with which students can lead the body. I love the idea of making it as educational as possible, by calling out bones or muscles in the human body and having students lead with those. "Everyone move around as if your cranium is leading you." This would be a wonderful addition to an anatomy unit.
> Man Overboard-This game offers students another opportunity to move about while listening and having fun. The teacher pretends to be the captain of a ship and calls out commands. The teacher establishes what side of the room is the bow, stern, starboard and port.  Before beginning the game, the group practices the actions that go with each command. Bow-run to front, Stern-run to back, Starboard-run to the right, Port-run to the left, Hit the deck-lie down, Captain is coming-stand at attention and salute, Man overboard- grab a partner, Man the lifeboats-get into a group of two pairs and start rowing,  Sharks-get of the ground. After each command, a player who responds too slowly or does the wrong action sits out. The last player to remain in the game is the winner. I will definitely use this game as I teach P.E. to my elementary students. This activity could also be taught in conjunction with a science unit on the Ocean or Rivers. 

> Clocks-Each student draws a clock with numbers on a sheet of paper. The students move around the room making appointments with one another, "Do you have an appointment available at 6:00? Oh then how about meeting with me at 10:00. Does that work?" Students fill each of their appointment times with a different student in the room. When everyone has filled their clock faces, the teacher has students discuss a particular subject with their assigned appointments. After 30 seconds, the teacher cues the student with their next appointment time and what they are to discuss. I love this activity for having students review together or make observations about something they have learned. It is also a great review for students learning the concept of time-telling.

For more free improv drama games (and classroom lesson ideas), go to

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