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IMPROV EXERCISES FOR THE CLASSROOM
~ Healthy Relationship with the Learning Process ~

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 In:  Wakes 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"). 

THE COUNT

Need: Nothing! They can play from their desks. :)

Time: 3 minutes to whenever you decide to end it!

Play: Explain that *as a team* we are going to count to 20 (or whatever you choose) BUT no one is allowed to say more than ONE number in a row; it only counts if: each person says ONE number at a time, and no one interrupts each other!  Explain also that they are probably going to interrupt each other and that it's OK!  And if (or when!) they interrupt, you will start them again at zero.  It can be supportive to let them know it's not a race, not timed, just an attempt to *try* something together.  This is a game about discovering patterns, practicing supportive communication (listening & speaking), and in order to do that we have to allow the "failure".  Try this as many times as you feel it is supportive.  You can invite them to try with their eyes closed!  

Tie In: This exercise invites them to explore failure as a likely (or inevitable) experience to trying.  Trying is enough, and that is worth celebrating!  Rather than getting mad about "not reaching 20" can they find other opportunites or make other observations about the perceived "mistake" (two of them had a connection, the value of trying again, listening & being patient to make things work, etc). Also, with you always restarting them at zero reinforces you role as the anchor and the supportive permission to try again.  They can also cultivate a safer relationship with themselves in knowing that their contribution is valuable both through speaking AND listening and being present.  Some kids will find it challenging to let go of control; some kids will find it challenging to the the risk - so it's a great way for you to see where they're at so you can support them that place. And when they see that YOU are comfortable with their "failures" they will feel more safe & supported to try, knowing that i they mess up, it's OK. 

MORE Improv Exercises for the Classroom

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