Intro to Improvisation


Students will apply their understanding of the basics of improvisation by identifying improv skills in a film and defining guidelines.


Materials Needed

computer and projector to show the following youtube clip:


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

(7 minutes): Ask the students to stand up and find their own spot in the room. Ask the students to begin walking around the room, silently. Encourage them to just walk, don’t think about doing anything, just walk. Then after a minute, ask the students to then begin walking around the room like a penguin. Let the students know that they don’t necessarily have to walk exactly like a penguin- they can walk in a way that shows the qualities of a penguin if they would like. Then continue with these prompts- cat, monkey, snake, a mosquito, a general, an old person, a giant, a toddler. Encourage the students to follow their impulses and instincts- Don’t think too much about it. Ask the students to come back together in a circle.



Step 1 (3 minutes): Ask the students to think to themselves and evaluate what they have just done. Ask them to think about this question: “Did you follow your instincts?” After a moment, ask the students to respond as a group to the question, “Was it difficult to follow your instincts? Why or Why not?” Encourage the students to share their answers with the class. Ask the students, “What does following your instincts or impulses have to do with improv?”


Step 2 (5 minutes): Ask the students to give you a definition of improv. Write this on the board. Explain to the students that we will be exploring and practicing improv over the coming class periods. Inform the students that over this unit, it is important that we be sure to remember to have respect for everyone in the class and what they do. Explain that improv comes naturally to some people and for others, it is more difficult. We are all learning together and if there is an atmosphere of trust, we can follow our impulses and learn that much more about improv. Ask the students, “What can we do as a class to be sure that we are respectful of others, helping everyone feel safe?” Write these on the board.


Step 3(10 minutes): Explain that although improvisation is off the top of your head and not planned or rehearsed, there are still guidelines that we follow that help us focus our thoughts and impulses. Explain to the students that we are going to watch a clip of a group doing improv. Ask the students to pay attention to the strengths of the improv as you watch the clip. Show the clip of Whose Line is it Anyway? After the clip, ask the students, “What strengths did you notice?” “Why do you think they were so successful with their improv?” “What made it interesting to watch?” “What did you notice about their bodies, commitment, pantomime skills, creativity?”
Give the students time to respond and discuss.


Step 4(1 minute): Explain that while improv is fun, it is more than just playing games. It takes a great amount of skill to be able to think quickly on the spot. Emphasize that the skills they will be learning will carry over into the work they do in plays and scenes.


Step 5(15 minutes): Go through the guidelines as listed below one at a time with the class, discussing the meaning and reason behind each. After, ask for two volunteers who would be willing to demonstrate what we shouldn’t do when improving. If there is time, you may have multiple improvs, each doing one thing from the list. Let the students perform their improv. Some situations could be coming home from a date, at the grocery check-out counter, argument with parents about extending curfew, asking a girl/guy to a dance, etc. After each improv, ask the students, “Why didn’t the scene work?” “What affect did it have on the actors?”


1. Commitment 100%
2. Listen to the other players
3. Support your team members
4. Forward the Action


1. Denial
2. Telling rather than showing
3. Forcing funniness
4. Worry about making mistakes


Step 6 (2 minutes): After the improvisations have performed, ask the students, “Why is it important to follow these guidelines?” “How will these guidelines help you as an actor?”


Step 7 (17 minutes): Explain to the students that this will be their improv team for the unit. Tell the students that their assignment is to come up with a creative team name for their group. Then, they must create cheers for one another, as people from their team will be called on to do certain activities and that is how they will show their support for their team members. Give the students 15 minutes to do this.


Step 8 (5 minutes): Bring the team back together and have each team share their individual cheers.


Step 9 (16 minutes): Explain to the students that we are now going to do a small activity that will prepare us for our improv adventure. Ask the students to sit in a circle. Explain to the students that we are going to all tell a story. One person will begin telling a story, a new, original story and when I say “Next” the person to the right of the starter will pick up where they left off, continuing the story. We will go around the whole circle and there needs to be a clear beginning, middle and end with established characters. Explain that we will play multiple times to practice. Encourage the students to challenge themselves, being creative and pushing themselves. As you continue through the game, set limits, like “You can’t use the word “little” or “and” or every sentence must start with a certain letter, etc. Play until about 2 minutes are left in class.


Step 10 (2 minutes): Explain to the students that we will begin to examine the guidelines of improv more closely as we start our next unit. Explain everyone needs to come ready to not only have fun, but to challenge themselves. Ask the students what they are most excited for over the coming unit.



Students will identify improv skills and define guidelines for improv as a class.