Lessons in Improvisation

In The Drama Games at Veterans Memorial Elementary School and Ella Risk Elementary School in Central Falls, RI, the topic of this week’s lesson is Improvisation.  Students in The Drama Games are taught that Improvisation is “creating without preparing,” in other words, making something up on the spot.  One of the exercises we use in class to practice Improvisation is “One Word Story.”  In this game, the students sit in a circle and tell a story together by taking turns — each contributing one word at a time.  The goal is to try and connect each word to the previous word as well as the overall context of the narrative.  “One Word Story” is an exercise in collaboration, concentration and making creative choices.  The students are most successful when they are attentive to one another’s contributions, trust their instincts, avoid over-thinking and work fast.

For your enjoyment, here are the stories I created with my 2nd grade Drama Games class at Veterans Memorial Elementary.  They chose the topic together before we created the story.  You can see from the topics and the “related” stories we created that we veered off course somewhat.  This is common in improvisation — especially with young people.  Logic can be the enemy of improvisation since the goal is to connect to your creative instincts, exercise your imagination and, on a more practical level, develop problem solving skills.


Short Story

Topic: Insects

11 students sitting in a circle.  I challenged them to create a “story” about insects that had a beginning, middle and end.  I allowed only three rotations around the circle.

“Insects are little and they can bite and fly.  They can dig and hide. They eat and die.  It’s nasty.  Ugly insect’s eggs, they are eating things!  Super duper cool Derek and Mekhi rule.”


Long Story

Topic: A retired man who likes to cook is married to a woman who doesn’t like his cooking.

11 students sitting in a circle.  I let them take turns contributing words until the story came to its natural conclusion.

“Once upon a time, it was an old woman and a man and a car ride.  The kangaroos ride on a bike and balled man a shoe and a pencil on the statue.  One lady that picked an apple toy and rotten poison banana. Valerie went to PriceRite and bought cheese sticks, a cereal and a brownie.  She did something weird.  And bad. She privately did something disgusting.  She got a new shoe, licked, robbed a rotten shoe.  And died.  The End.”