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IMPROV EXERCISES FOR THE CLASSROOM
~ Energy Boosting and Morale ~

I AM A - lightening round

Needsome safe, open space for them to form a circle

Time: 3 minutes - 15 minutes (whatever feels supportive for you)

Play: Arranged in a circle, they take turns, one at a time, moving towards the middle of the circle and announcing "I AM A...." and they fill in the blank.  You encourage them to make connected offers as fast as they can.  Everyone gets in and they can pose as their offer once they're in.  If they interrupt or talk when it's someone else's turn or take too long to make a new offer, you can come up with the reset dance/chant, and they start again! The goal is for everyone to make a connected offer (one at a time) at a quick pace (you set the pace!), without losing focus.  You can also add any other rules you want to make it fun and more/less challenging for them! 

Tie In:  The physical/group chant each time they 'mess up' shifts the energy, shakes off the nerves and allows them a fresh start.  The goal of making connected offers, making space for one another, taking turns to become a part of the same whole, along with the collective energy of play with they mess up will help them feel more connected to each other, and relax them if they were feeling stressed or having a challenging moment.  Now their focus is on something shared and there is permission to be present, and if they fail, it's celebrated altogether. 

CATEGORIES

Need: Nothing - can play in their desks but it's nice to get them up and arrange them in a horizontal line 

Time5-25 minutes (depends on if you want to play "ELIMINATION" style!)

Play:  Announce a category (they can participate in this too) and then point at each of them one-at-a-time in a spontaneous order.  They have to list something in that category as fast as they can. You can decide the rules with respect to what answers are allowed (they can't repeat anything that's already been said - so they have to listen to each other, or they can't hesitate, or they can't say anything that's 'wrong', etc).  You can also play with no elimination at all (you can just use this as a warm-up and no eliminations...but they are often quite inspired by that competitive element, especially when they know losing is OK and if they lose they get to choose the next category)!  It is also supportive to make your elimination signal really playful and safe, something they enjoy participating in (like a ridiculous buzzer sound or a funny gesture).  

Tie InWakes them up, boosts energy, boosts motivation, shifts old energy, helps their brains to practice presence, gives them a chance to experience mistakes and become more familiar (safe) with failing, connects them to you in a supportive & playful way, helps them practice being good sports (if you play ELIMINATION style) and to recognize the built-in quality of resilience.  *You can always frame the categories on a curricular focus to reinforce learning if you like.  For eg "Words that end with a silent E".

5 THINGS

Need: Nothing - but it helps with energy to play this by standing in a circle, so if you have the space...

Time: 5-10 minutes (depends on the size of your class)

Play: This one comes with a chant (yay!): "Fiiiiive Things! Five things, five things, five things!"  **They will watch your energy so be mindful of your own enthusiasm and invite them to meet you there! Be patient with kids and anxiety - they may not match your confidence today, but they might one day if you don't give up on them.  They go around the circle, each person asks the person beside them to "name five ____" - they get to choose what they ask each other to "name five" of (five subjects, five characters in a story, five letters in some word, five types of poems, etc).  The person asked to name five things then proceeds, with enthusiasm, to name these things BUT ... (and this might be hard for you, Teacher, because ... I get it!) ... BUT, they get to be wrong; the goal is for them to make the fastest most spontaneous responses and in between each "thing" they name, everyone else cheers, "ONE!" , then "TWO", then "THREE!" after each of the five items.  So, no matter what they say, they are celebrated.  Oftentimes, they'll say the "right" things, and oftentimes, they'll say made-up, unexpected or "wrong" things...but it's ALL great!  The focus is on them taking the chance, using the confidence, trying their best, sometimes being right, and sometimes being wrong.  If they try to be wrong on purpose just celebrate the fast "right" answers AND the "wrong" answers that felt organic and honest to illustrate the value is on trying our best, honestly, and then whatever happens = we celebrate each other.  

Tie InThey are co-creating a supportive dynamic, energy, and habit for each other with this game.  They are giving each other permission to take a creative risk, to go for it, and to even be "wrong" and know that's OK, and that even when they make mistakes or make unexpected guesses, they will always have each others' backs.  This also exemplifies the value of "mistakes" and the unexpected, since they often make us laugh and feel more connected! It also nurtures the permission in your classroom for trying and failing, which helps them feel safe, and then they are all set to celebrate each other, all the more, when they succeed!  This game also helps the practice of taking turns and steering peer focus in supportive ways.  It's also a good name game if you include the rule of " (Name), please say five things_______".   You can also incorporate curriculum support with the "Five Things" - you could structure it however you want (eg."five things that have to do with a topic or unit"). 

8s

Need: nothing - they can do this at their desks, but they need proprioception so they can move freely and safely in their space.  "This can be modified to support any differentiated physical needs & abilities.

Time: 2 minutes 

Play: Countdown altogether, nice and loud, first from 8, then from 7, then from 6, all the way to 1 - and with each countdown, you guide them to shake out a different part of their body (for eg, left arm shakes "8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1!" then they shake their right arms "8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1!" then left foot shakes "8,6,5,4,3,2,1!" then right foot "8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1!", then repeat shaking each body part but count down from 7, then 6 and so on, all the way to 1).  Decide at the beginning what you will all shout together (ideally something ridiculous and silly!) when you finish at 1.  You will probably need to remind them to breathe throughout (and don't forget to breathe yourself)! 

Tie In:  Tapping into the value of the mind-body connection, inviting them to participate in some movement can get them out of their heads, wake them up, shift up the energy, give their focus a break, refresh their perspective, and feel more connected to one another.  

SCREAM* CIRCLE

*Doesn't have to be a scream! See note below.

Needsome safe, open space for them to form a circle

Time: 3 minutes 

Play: Arranged in a circle, guide them to look down.  You count down 3, 2, 1 and they look up and look at ONE person (and keep looking at their first choice) and IF that person is looking back at them too, they scream, together, at the same time, while maintaining eye contact! Then you repeat "heads down" and count again, 3, 2, 1 and they look up again.  Repeat.  (Obviously you can guide the nature of their scream; you could also substitute a funny sound or a laugh or a word they say together - whatever feels most supportive for you!) You can add in layers, like, if they make eye contact they scream and then dramatically faint and sit out the rest of the round, or they scream and switch places, etc - up to you.  

Tie In:  Primes them to look for eye contact, teaches them to recognize first instincts, gets them into a silly mind-frame which allows them to relax and feel more connected with each other, so they can get out of their heads and be more present.  It is also an opportunity to express some emotions in a very playful, guided and safe way.

MORE Improv Exercises for the Classroom

 

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