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~ Creating a Respectful Atmosphere / Clear Expectations ~


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!


Need: nothing - they can play right at their desks if you want 

Time: this one does take up a fair amount of time - but it builds and reinforces your role so effectively, as someone they respect, know they're going to have fun with, but also know you mean business and require them to honour your rules and boundaries - it's so worth it! 

Play: They can remain seated, and you can  too!  Announce that something has happened in the kingdom and you need all of their attention (you can play this up as a dramatic, high status character if you want, to show them you're playing - but also seriously need their focus!).  Express that it has come to your attention that (insert some trivial, troubling news, like someone has "painted the roses red") and explain you want to get to the bottom of it.  If they know anything about it, they may raise their hand and IF you pick them, they always must first say, "May I speak, My Majesty?" and then you can choose (yes or no!).  Let them know, that you can send them to the dungeon at any point (dungeon can be sitting under their desk, or whatever you feel is appropriate) and they automatically get sent to the dungeon if they speak out of turn, forget to raise their hand, forget to ask permission to speak, forget to call you My Majesty, or if anything else creative comes up, like they've been accused of painting the roses red and there is proof!).  When they are in the dungeon, they CAN'T raise their hands, they must listen as you talk with the other members of your kingdom.  Those in the dungeon have to wait for you to engage with them, at which point you can give them opportunities to win their freedom (like, apologize in French, or in a haiku, or recite a lesson they learned without using the word "the", etc).  I usually air on the side of "if they earnestly try they can be free - but that's just me!  The game can go on for as long (or short) as you feel their energy and focus benefit.  

Tie In:  This teaches them focus, this reminds them that you are in charge but also there to have fun with them, as long as they are doing their best to honour your rules!  The dungeon teaches them that even if they're wrong or they lose in one moment, that's OK; it's safe to fail, and they will always get second (and third) chances, as long as they are being respectful.  It teaches them to take turns, to be patient, to connect with each other playfully, and sneakily, it teaches them the social skill of addressing folks by name!  It also reinforces the curriculum skills you throw into the dungeon to grant their freedom.  


NeedNothing - they can get up 2 at a time in front of the class, or do this all at once, in partners.

Time:  5-10 minutes (all at once in partners)*, 25-30 minutes (2 at a time)* (*depends on class size)

Play: Player A asks for whatever they want at the "info booth" and the Info Booth player only has to say "yes" and they can give them what they ask for through miming!  Then Player A accepts the offer, even if it was given in an unexpected way.  Then they switch, to try the other role.  They keep going, taking turns and asking for whatever they want/giving their partners whatever they want with miming.  At the end it's fun to share what folks received; it is useful to highlight "I love how you accepted something that you weren't expecting!" 

Tie In:  This builds the habit of finding creative ways to support each other and to accept each others' ideas, even when they are different from their own.  They also learn that there are lots of ways someone may respond supportively to their ideas, and just because it's not what they would do/say, they can still show acceptance for the response.  Finally, it builds the habit of wanting to support each other - if someone asks something, they respond by finding a way to give them an answer/support.

MORE Improv Exercises for the Classroom

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