top of page

~ Focus, Listening, and Effective Communication Skills ~


Need: Nothing - they can play right from their desks or you can set them up however you like

Time: 5-30 minutes (however long you find it supportive) 

Play: Explain that they will be transforming into ONE person who knows all about ... (insert desired area of expertise here)!  You will be interviewing them (a la Hollywood Reporter Roundtable if you are familiar with that!) and they will answer ONE WORD AT A TIME - so each child has ONE word to say each turn, and they attempt to create coherent answers together - each with one word at a time.  Inevitably there will be some folks who want to derail the process and I find the best response is to just let them.  The other kids will kind of guide that behaviour because they want to do it! But the point is allowing the experience (however it unfolds) to teach them the value of listening to each other in order to know how to respond, and the value of making connected offers (which sometimes they learn by doing the opposite, so it's all good!).   You can do this in pairs/groups or as a whole class, and you can divide them up into teams or run it with your whole class at once (as though all 26 of them are "one" person!).  Very conducive to modifying to suit your needs and goals. 


Tie In:  Shows they're listening and allowing space for others' ideas to build on.  It also reinforces a practice of listening that is active and engaged (and continuous).  They learn to let go of assuming and instead be present with each others' ideas, discovering how that leads to great things! There is no need to control communication; they are learning it is a collaborative experience and goes well when they focus on their peers and truly listen (vs plan/presume). *You can also use this as a team-reinforcement exercise and ground it in subject matter your class has been working on (tectonic plates or volcanoes or cumulonimbus clouds etc!) - just remember to keep it fun, playful, and allow room for mistakes to be accepted (that's the whole point, so they feel confident expressing themselves in the learning process).  Mistakes also highlight what they DO know (if they recognize a mistake, great!).  


Need: nothing - you can do this as a whole class or organize them into teams, seated together

Time: 5 minutes to 20 minutes (depends how you would like to run it)

Play: Explain that they are going to take turns creating "headlines" for a made up newspaper.  *You can ground this in a theme from your curriculum if you want to challenge them and reinforce learning on a certain subject or keep it open, depending on what makes the most sense for you & them!  First, come up with a fun newspaper name.  They will take turns saying a "headline" (eg Weather is here! or Politics still happening!).  After the first headline is announced, the second player starts their headline starting with the last word of the previous headline. (eg if the last headline was "Weather is here!" the next headline would start with "Here...").  The challenge is to start right away without planning - saying the last word right away and then coming up with the rest.  It's OK if it's not grammatical (unless you really want to focus on that), and it's OK if it's silly (silly is ideal, IMO)!  Headlines can also be grounded in a theme or subject, or totally open and unrelated (depends what your priority is).  Encourage them to speak with emotion and volume so their partners can hear them.  Shy kids will find that challenging so differentiate your expectations as supportively as you need!

Tie In: Reinforcing the skill of listening to someone else's FULL offer/idea before they respond.  This keeps them in active listening mode vs. planning & anticipating.  It is also a great way to encourage voice projection and clear speaking, because their partners need to hear what they're saying in order to continue.  This also encourages the value of focusing when navigating the unknown - their best bet is listening and giving focus to the speaker in order to know what to do!  Also, this necessitates the habit of taking turns: listening and speaking are both equally valuable skills in communication!  *You can also implement new challenges like "you have to make eye contact for at least 1 second" or "you're not allowed to say 'um'" - have fun with it and make it your own!  This is also a great exercise for idea-generation in story units in Language Arts.


Need: move the desks & chairs off to the perimeter to clear an open, safe space for them to move to different parts of the room

Time: 5 minutes to 30 minutes (whenever you decide to end it!)

Play: Have them all stand along one wall in a horizontal line, establish the directional cues of a stage* (establish the locations of upstage, down stage, centre stage, stage left and stage right are).  Have them move to each location as you name it.  Communicate to them when you say "upstage" or "down stage", they all move to that location as quickly (and safely!) as possible. You can then let them know you might throw in your own cues, like "alien!" or "spell "jupiter" - or whatever feels relevant and fun for you - encourage them to take a risk and if they try, they're safe - if they aren't listening, they'll miss the cue and they will be OUT! Eventually when they've all had some time to play, up the stakes and eliminate them if they are LAST to respond to your cue/arrive at your announced location.  If they are OUT, they get to help you come up with cues when you point to them.  

Tie In: This exercise teaches them that listening to you has value and affects them in a supportive way (if they are listening to you, they will know what to do and feel guided).  This game also lets them practice taking a creative risk if they don't know "the" right answer, and that you view failure as a safe, normal part of their experience that you hold space for.   This game also teaches them to practice being a good sport and to support/give focus to their peers, because sometimes it's someone else's turn to win!  And finally, this game teaches them, if they're OUT, they are still very valuable and can still play a valuable role, inviting resilience.

*You can substitute the context in whatever way is most fun, supportive and relevant for you and your class! For example, if you're currently learning about the solar system, you could instead establish locations of Earth, Mars, Jupiter, the sun, etc!

MORE Improv Exercises for the Classroom


bottom of page