Improv for kids? Yes! How Acting Helps Students and Teachers
Improvisation is well-known in acting schools in Los Angeles or acting classes. Improv for kids is also growing in public and private schools as a teaching and learning tool! You may expect Improv in college theater and high school drama departments. However, many school-age students are being offered short improv for kids assemblies or workshops on certain subjects, as an introduction to performance arts in after school or summer programs, or to improve their engagement in their regular academic classes.
Fans of Improv are quick to point out its educational value. Improv for kids sharpens communication and public speaking skills. It also promotes fast thinking and engagement with ideas. Acting classes for kids and adults are well aware of the value of Improv. On a deeper level, Improv can help break through mental barriers to creative thinking in any field.
The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University encourages young scientists to convey their ideas more effectively with a graduate course on—you guessed it: “Improv helps [scientists] re-engage with their own passions in their work, get out of their head and connected to the needs of the listener, be able to respond more freely, spontaneously and flexibly,” says Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, improvisation coordinator at Stony Brook.
Improv requires we set aside our internal editor, the one who rejects words or ideas, often before they’re even expressed. Instead, Improv stimulates and rewards spontaneous, intuitive response. The group nature of Improv providing support for every idea and answer helps build participants’ confidence and sense of connection with others.
Variations of Improv games are also useful in classrooms to help revitalize sleepy or distracted students, or to stimulate more proactive modes of learning. “Yes, and” invites kids of all types see the positive in their peers, creating a healthier climate at school. These are just a few of the reasons we’ve always incorporated elements of Improv in all of our on-camera acting classes for kids and teens at 3-2-1 Acting school in Los Angeles.
Improv helps more than just the students. Improv games also serve to remind teachers to listen, to go beyond their rigid teaching plan to respond and adapt to students and their needs. Teachers who bring Improv into their classrooms often find their students are energized and more attentive after engaging in simple Improv exercises. Favorites that make everyone look a little ridiculous and giggle seem to be the most effective and focusing classroom energy in positive directions.
Here are some simple Improv games and exercises to help get the blood and creativity flowing in and out of the classroom:
Players form in a circle and must count randomly to 21. No two players can speak at the same time. Listening Skills are essential and this is great for focusing energy.
TAG TEAM QUESTIONS
2 teams face off in a scene where they are only allowed to speak in questions. Players can swap or tag in and out as needed.
ONE WORD STORY
Players form a circle and must complete an entire story with each player adding one word as the story grows and develops.
ALIEN, COW AND TIGER
On the leader’s signal, each player decides to become one of the three things:
- An Alien: make an antenna with an index finger and say `Bleeb bleeb`, bending inwards into the circle.
- A Cow: bend forward, hold your right hand on your tummy and say `Moooo.`
- A Tiger: push your right hand forward, imitating a claw and roar.
The goal is for everyone to become the same thing, which obviously won’t be the case, the first time. Re-do this until everyone is in sync.
Participants form a circle. Select a child to cross the circle to an empty spot in any way they like…walk…crawl…hop….twirl… They call someone else who must cross in a different way.
CROSS THE CIRCLE (NUMBERED)
Everyone is numbered around the circle as 1, 2, OR 3. The leader calls a number such as 2. All number 2’s must cross the circle in one role of leader’s choice as:
•Someone who’s stuck in the mud……..
•A fashion model……
•Whatever your imagination comes up with!
After all the number 2’s cross the circle, call a different number to cross the circle in the manner the leader directs.
We’re improvising all the time—in conversations, classes, every new situation we encounter, every familiar setting we return to. Improvisation games are a lot like taking your brain the gym and working up a sweat with your imagination. Like every kind of exercise, it’s best to take it easy at the start with attainable goals and regular exercises. Improv for kids and adults alike gets easier with practice, and confidence soars with every success. So do some Improv! Play more, laugh more, and learn better!