Physicality's Role in Storytelling

Educational Objective:

Students will be able to better tell stories by using their bodies to better solidify the elements of storytelling they have already learned by playing Sound Effects as well as Location, Career, Death with no dialogue.


Materials Needed:

• Access to YouTube
• Projector with connection to the computer



When the bell rings, begin with a YouTube clip of Sound Effects from Whose Line is it Anyway? (making sure that it is one with only Collin acting and Ryan providing the sounds–there are some in which audience members provide the sounds for Collin and Ryan where talking is allowed, and it is not helpful to the lesson’s objective).


Step 1 (Group Practice): Ask the students to form groups of six. If needed, form the groups for them (but only do this if there have been problems with cliques in the class). Once they have formed the groups and have found their own space in the room, ask the students to play Sound Effects, keeping in mind the discussion from the last lesson . Two students at a time will play while the others provide a situation and then side coach (meaning to look for storytelling elements and ask for them to be clearer if necessary, but in a respectful way) if need be. This should take about ten minutes, each partnership being allowed three minutes to create and continue the scene.


Step 2 (Discussion): Ask the students to sit in their circles and to face you. As a class, discuss the use of various storytelling techniques as they happened. What were some favorite moments? Did anyone feel that they could have done something more? Were people willing to be silly? Was it difficult to keep going after a minute or so? Why or why not? How difficult was it to tell a story only using your body? Did people providing the sound effects see what was going on and were they able to help the story progress? What techniques were used in order to create a readable story?


Step 3 (Class Practice): Ask for two volunteers to play Sound Effects in front of the class now that they have been able to warm up and play for each other and receive a bit of coaching. Ask the audience for the situation to be played. Remind the students that the more specific you are, the easier it is to create. Allow three or four partnerships to play, always going over what went well and what could have been improved. Ask the players what they noticed first, and then ask the audience what they saw or didn’t see. These scenes should only be about two minutes at the longest in order to make time for the last few steps.


Step 4 (Instruction): After the last discussion about Sound Effects, teach the students how to play the game “Location, Career, Death.” This is also sometimes called “Chain Murder Mystery Endowment.” The game is played sort of like “Telephone,” but we use various acting techniques in order to communicate rather than a whispered phrase. One person will be given a location, a career, and a death. None of the three things should be related in the slightest. For example, it may be that this person is in the ocean, is a plumber, and was killed by a raging stampede of rhinoceroses. There are three other people outside of the room who were unable to hear these things. One by one, the others enter and must guess what each thing is. There is no talking allowed. In order to make sure this is not just a glorified version of the game “Charades,” the person trying to guess must somehow become part of the scene that the actor is trying to create. When the guesser thinks he understands, he claps his hands twice and spins around, signaling the actor to move on to the next part. The students can use sound effects, but only sparingly. They should rely on their physicality to tell the story. When “telling” to the next person, the actor may not copy what the person before him or her did. It can be similar, but they must be responsible for creativity. At the end of the game, the four line up in the order they acted. The person who went last tells what he or she believes the three elements were. If that person is close on one, the audience makes the “almost” noise (most people know that that would be). If he or she is correct, the audience applauds and the rest of the line does not have to mention that one again. Go down the line until all of the elements are correct.


Step 5/Informal Assessment: Allow the students to play “Location, Career, Death” until the end of the period. Always assess what worked and what did not, focusing on physicality. How does physicality help create a scene? Is it harder or easier when people are not specific in their movements? What happens if someone is afraid to be big/silly?