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Improvisation: Keep the Scene Going


Students will apply their understanding of action progression (moving the scene forward) by participating in improvisation activities and reflecting on the experience.


Materials Needed

several slips of paper


Lesson Directions

(3 minutes): Choose a student to be your partner and tell the students that you are going to perform for them an improv scene. Ask them to be the director and to give you feedback on what you did wrong and what you could have done better. You may or may not want to let your partner know where you are going with this. As you perform an improv scene continuously use 1) negative responses and 2) contradictions. For example, if your partner says “Hey, let’s see if we can outrun Mrs. Johnson’s dog” you say no. If you partner says that it is the meanest dog on the block, contradict your partner and say that it isn’t a dog, but a bunny etc.

Step 1 (5 minutes): Ask the “directors” to give you feedback. Ask the students to give you details on what you could do better. As students give suggestions, continually ask “Why or How”. If the students say, “It was boring to watch” ask the students, “Why was it boring to watch?”

Step 2 (2 minutes): Inform the students that one of the best things they can do in improvisation is to accept the action. It is important to think “yes” instead of “no”. You accept what your scene partner says and help to further the action. If your scene partner says a straw is a rocket ship, accept it and take it further! Don’t negate. Explain that denial becomes a problem when players have a preconceived notion about where the scene should go and try to force it.

Step 3 (20 minutes):  Explain that we are going to try to say yes to everything in this next activity.

Freeze – Based on a suggestion from the group, two people start a mini-scene with a lot of movement. After a few exchanges of dialogue, a player who is not in the scene shouts, “Freeze.” The players must immediately freeze in their current positions. The player who shouted, “Freeze” replaces one of the players and assumes that player’s exact position. The replacement player then initiates an entirely new scene starting in that position. This scene continues until another player says “Freeze” and replaces a player. *note – it is important that the players change positions often during the scene and make large movements so that the scenes do not begin from similar positions.

Encourage to use the principles of acceptance and to avoid denial in these mini scenes. As the teacher, you may choose to say Freeze, but for instruction if students are continuing to deny or stop stories. You may choose to have them rewind the scene a bit and accept the choice and/or reality of the scene.

Step 4 (2 minutes): Once the students have completed the activity, ask them to evaluate how well they accepted the action. Ask, “What could you do differently next time in accepting the action?”

Step 5 (20 minutes): Limited lines – Hand out strips of paper to the students. Ask them to write down a quote, line from a movie, something their mother always says, etc. Collect the papers and ask for two volunteers. Explain that you will split the papers up and set them on the edge of the stage as players begin a scene. Explain that throughout the scene players should create a set-up such as “and when I finally made it in to see the Wizard of Oz he said to me _______” at which point the player takes a piece of paper and reads what is said. The scene continues. Ask the audience to give the players a situation or scene. Once the scene is determined, begin the game. Encourage the players to accept whatever the slip of paper says and move the story forward. You can play this multiple times and ask for new quotes from the class.

Step 6 (3 minutes): Ask the students, what it was like accepting something that didn’t make a lot of sense? Or accepting something you didn’t expect?

Step 7 (2 minutes): Explain that along with keeping the action going, it is also important to wrap up the scene. It is important to find a suitable ending, otherwise, the scene could last for hours and its appeal gets lost. It is important to tell a story with improv.

Step 8 (15 minutes): Write on – Ask for 4 volunteers. Explain that one player sits facing the audience and dictates or writes a novel. Ask the audience for an idea for a story.  The writer can pretend to type at a computer or write by hand as he voices aloud what he is writing. While writing their story, other players act out what is being “written” The novelist can stop and rewrite parts of the scene. He can “erase” those lines and “type” new ones in which the actors must rewind and start from the point where the deleting began. The idea is to always be advancing the story. If the story isn’t advancing, back up and try again.

Step 9 (3 minutes): After all students have participated, ask the students, “How well did you accept the action?” “What could you do better?”  Ask the writer, “Was it difficult finding an ending?” “What helped you in ending the story?” “What could you have done better?”

Step 10 (5 minutes): Ask the students to get out a sheet of paper and reflect on the activities they participated in today. “What was the hardest thing for you to do today?” “What might have made it easier?” “How well did I accept the action?” “What can I do better next time?



Students will participate in a variety of activities and turn in a written reflection of their performance today.