Show, Don’t Tell


Students will apply their understanding of showing in improv by participating in “Party Quirks” and reflecting on their experience.


Materials Needed

Party Quirks character list:
• Justin Bieber just released from having his appendix removed.
• Window washer that is afraid of heights
• Celebrity who takes any moment to practice their Oscar speech
• Michael Jackson suffering from short term memory loss
• A clown that just got fired from the circus
• Star wars geek with no social skills
• Lady Gaga trying to warn everyone the world is ending
• Lebron James trying to apply for a job at McDonalds
• Johnny Depp getting his drivers’ license picture taken
• Taylor Swift with a multiple personality disorder
• Simon Cowell judging a high school talent contest
• Uptight English teacher obsessed with correcting everyone’s grammar, even if it isn’t wrong
• Over protective mother ready to break up the party if there is any funny business
• Jimmer trying to hide his identity from paparazzi
• Girl at prom who realizes her date left with another girl


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

(10 minutes): Have four volunteers come to the front: one eye-witness and three detectives trying to solve a murder case. The detectives are sent out of the room beyond hearing range. Together the class decides on three things: a place, an occupation of the victim, and a murder weapon. The first detective is called in into the room to interrogate the witness as to the murder, however the eye-witness is mute. The eye-witness, without words, must convey the events of the murder to the first detective. They may do each part one at a time or all at once. When the detective thinks they understand what happened, they say “aha!” Without saying what they think the things are, the next detective is brought in. The first detective now pantomimes what they think the things are (for a harder challenge tell the first detective they cannot use the exact same pantomime as the eye-witness!). The second detective says “aha!” when they think they know the three things and then pantomimes for the third detective. Once the third detective knows all of the three things he shouts “aha!” and tells the story (dramatically) of what occurred for the murder. Play this about 2 or 3 times.



Step 1(3 minutes): Ask the students, “What was your experience like, communicating without words?” “What made it difficult?” “What could you have done to communicate more clearly?” Ask the students, “How does this activity relate to improv?” “Why is it important to show and not tell?”


Step 2 (2 minutes): Explain to the students that improv is much more interesting when we are able to show the audience the environment we are in or show who we are. Explain that instead of coming onto the stage and saying, “Wow, this beach is amazing!” I could walk in, breathe in the salty air and begin walking in the sand, showing that it is hot or dipping my toes in the cold water. Demonstrate this for the students. Ask the students, “Why is showing better than telling?”


Step 3 (3 minutes): Explain that we are going to explore this idea further. Have the students sit in a circle and explain that you have a gift in this box and that you are going to show them what it is, instead of telling them. Explain that this box has a gift in it for each of them. Give an example of a snorkel mask- instead of saying, “I always wanted a snorkel mask” I could say, “It’s just what I wanted” and then demonstrate using the mask. Demonstrate this for the students. Then pass the box to the student on your right and continue the activity.


Step 4 (2 minutes): Ask the students, “What were the different gifts we received?” “What was the most difficult part of the activity?” “Could you have done anything different to make your object clearer?” “What are you starting to learn about improv?”


Step 5 (15 minutes): Have the students get into groups of 3 or 4. Explain that as a group they are to come up with a who, where, what. For example, each person in the group will choose a character that would be at a playground in the afternoon. Some characters could include a child playing at the playground, a parent, a person walking their dog, etc. Explain that as a group we will be guessing what the situation and characters are. Explain that they are to pantomime this, without words. Give the students about 2 minutes to decide with their group who their characters will be and where they are and the situation. Then ask for a volunteer group to go first. Let each group perform.


Step 6 (30 minutes): Inform the students that they are now going to play party quirks. In this game, we have a host for a party. Then there will be three guests. The guests will be given identities to perform and the host must guess who the party guests are. Once a guest’s identity has been discovered, they are to leave the party. Play this enough times for every student to participate. See supplements for identities.


Step 7 (5 minutes): For the last 5 minutes, bring the group back together and ask them to reflect on what they have learned today. Ask, “Why is it important to show and not tell?” “How does this help you in improv?” “How might this help you in a play, scene or monologue?”


· More time? Gibberish. One student leaves the room with two or three others are given a very specific location, action and problem. Actors are only supposed to speak in gibberish. The student who left enters the scene and while also speaking in gibberish gets incorporated into the scene and will eventually guess all that is going on. Encourage the students to show, not tell.



Students will apply their knowledge of showing in improv by participating in “Party Quirks” and reflecting on their experience.