Is it a drama? Is it a game? No it's a way to build up confidence and self belief, says Kathryn Horgan
Improvisation is traditionally associated with drama, but I think it can be useful across the entire curriculum. The ad libbing can teach pupils of all abilities leadership, creativity, initiative and adaptability.
To get pupils interested in the idea of improvisation, lead by example. Demonstrate exactly what it is you want them to produce. A good warm-up activity is "the prop game", which is as simple as it sounds. Get the pupils to sit in a circle and, using everyday items such as a milk bottle, ask volunteers to take the prop and improvise a short piece. In these monologues, the pupils must demonstrate what the prop is and what it means to them.
The pupils need to consider their voice, their use of facial and body expressions and ensure that their short talk is interesting and original. To encourage creativity, give the pupils a demonstration. Once they see you being imaginative and even a bit silly, they will let their guard down and have a go themselves.
Once they have warmed up, short scenarios are an excellent way to develop a session and build up skills. Give three pupils different roles to play; for example, one can be the teacher, another an innocent pupil and the third a guilty pupil. Say that they are in class and pupil A is talking but the teacher starts to blame pupil B. Everyday scenarios like this can help pupils with their communication skills and explore behaviour management. They can also help prevent arguments.
End a session using a game called "catch a story". Once the group is sitting in a circle, the teacher starts a story before throwing a beanbag to another member of the group. Whoever catches the beanbag must then continue the tale before throwing the beanbag to another person.
Once the pupils have grasped the idea, keep them on their toes by inserting "fortunately" or "unfortunately" scenarios. Perhaps start with: "Unfortunately the pilot's plane blew up", then: "Fortunately he had a parachute".
This will help pupils develop spontaneity, participate more in school work and improve improvisation. It also gives young people confidence to adapt to whatever situation they face.
Kathryn Horgan is a cover supervisor at Fred Longworth High School in Tyldesley, Manchester.
PLANNING A PERFECT IMPROVISATION
- Keep the activities short to prevent pupils getting bored.
- Change it slightly to ensure responses remain spontaneous.
- Allow reluctant pupils to sit out at first. Help them build up confidence to eventually join in.
- Explore school issues that pupils can relate to, such as behaviour management.
- Be positive about pupils' attempts. Not everyone is born with confidence; many need to develop self-belief.