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Basics of Improv (online)

Lesson 2 - Basics of Improv (online)

Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of the basics of improvisation by responding to reading about Spolin, improvisation skills, and reflecting on an awareness activity

Essential Questions:

  • Who is Viola Spolin?
  • Why is play important to theatre?


*Note: This lesson was originally created as an online lesson. It can be adjusted and expanded to be taught in-person.

Self-Reflection for Lesson 1

(This assignment was posted on Canvas as an Assignment)

This is a self-reflection focused on the activities you participated in during the previous class. Respond to these questions in a text box or upload a written document. Respond to each question with 2-3 complete sentences.

  1. What was a moment of discovery for you during the activities? Why did it stand out to you?
  2. What was a challenging moment during the activities? How did you overcome that challenge?
  3. What was your favorite part of the activities? Why was it your favorite?
  4. What additional questions do you have about what you learned?


(This assignment was posted on Canvas as a Discussion)

In this unit, we will be using activities and techniques created by Viola Spolin. Read her biography below and respond to the following questions.


Viola Spolin was an actress, educator, director, author, and the creator of theater games, a system of actor training that uses games she devised to organically teach the formal rules of the theater. Her groundbreaking book Improvisation for the Theatertransformed American theater and revolutionized the way acting is taught. (

Viola Spolin’s improvisational Theater Games are a complete system of actor training. Each game or exercise has a focus, a problem to be solved by the players as a group, so that lessons are learned through play (experience). She wrote: 'Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become stageworthy. We learn through experience and experiencing, and no one teaches anyone anything. . . . ‘Talent’ or ‘lack of talent’ has little to do with it.” (


  • What is play?
  • Why is it important to theatre?
  • What do you think Viola meant by “We learn through experience and experiencing, and no one teaches anyone anything.” How do we learn through play?

Observation Reflection

Awareness is an important skill to develop as an actor. Practicing observation and listening with your eyes and ears can prepare you to listen and respond to scene partners.

Like the in-class activity, sit and listen to your environment for 5 minutes (put on a timer). Afterwards respond to all questions thoughtfully.

  1. What sounds did you hear?
  2. What did you discover during this activity?
  3. How do you think listening can impact you as an artist?

What? Improv Takes Skills? Pt. 1 Assignment

Read the introduction and the first two sections of What? Improv takes Skill? (document can be found on the next page). Only read the first two because we will read the last three on another day. Respond to the questions below and submit your response online.

  1. What four things must you decide before you start an improv?
  2. Why is conflict important to improv?