IMPROVISATION CAN CONNECT TO LEARNING
Welcome back to my blog and Happy New Year! If you're new to me, I'm Enrique and I work with children, teachers and parents all over the world through my F.A.M.E. Foundation and through Context Method/MyTown Music. Using artistic approaches to elevate how anyone learns is what we do.
I have used improvisation games for many years. At first I used them to simply let the young learners have a break in their day that was fun. Then I realized how much learning was taking place naturally, especially related to language, both spoken and embodied. One of my favorite improv games is called TAXI.
I had played this game with K - 5 students, where the students become a passenger and/or driver in a taxi cab. Each student becomes an emotion and embodies that emotion with what they say and do.
I hadn't yet tried the game with middle and high school students, but once I did, I found it was huge hit with that age group!
Then, I thought I should try it with adults in our professional development sessions, and WOW, did they love it. They were as engaged as actors were. I found that many adults had an actor/actress inside them wanting to come out and play!
Then about 3 months ago, I tried this game with preschool children and the result was…. the children wanted to play the game over and over again. Below is an image from Gregory Sidor's blog "Everybody's a Comedian: An Easy Improv Party Game. I encourage you to check it out. It's a great resource. Below are the essential steps I take when I engage preschool children in this game that elevates learning in many ways.
STEP 1: With children sitting in a circle demonstrate emotions with your own face and body and have the children guess which emotion you are. Encourage children to volunteer to be the one demonstrating the emotion. This step can go on for days, if not weeks. Let it happen. You're building skill level for the actual Taxi Improv game.
STEP 2: Place 4 chairs in the middle of the rug with children sitting around them. Demonstrate with your fellow teachers or some visiting parents. The first person, the driver of the taxi cab, chooses an emotion but doesn't tell anyone what it is. This individual becomes this emotion with what they say and how they use their body language as they enter the taxi and begin to drive.
STEP 3: The 2nd person chooses their own emotion without telling anyone and enters the taxi embodying that emotion. THE TAXI CAB DRIVER, the first person, does their best to become the emotion of the 2nd person.
STEP 4: The 3rd and 4th individuals do the same as the 2nd person. In the end, 4 emotions will have been experienced.
NOTE: It is a very good idea to write down a list of emotions the children know on a board of some type to help them have a visual of what the word looks like and to help them have a selection to choose from. Grow this list of words over time.
With young children, you'll most likely be starting with words like "Happy", "Sad", "Mad", and "Funny." Remember to not underestimate the children's abilities. Start with those kinds of words and take the risk to extend on those words. For example, once they know "Happy", you can introduce "Excited", which they probably know, and go on to words like "Exuberant."
Have fun and remember that fun IS NOT fluff! Fun is where it's at. Fun is an INVITATION to the learner to create and discover! To read more about improvisation, check out my book/e-book Living Like a Child!
Founder, F.A.M.E. Foundation
Co-Founder, Context Method