How do I start?
In the beginning, Improvisation can be very intimidating and students may be reluctant to "play." There are several obstacles in learning to trust Improvisation. They include:
"I can't"- students that are intimidated by theatrical performances
Risking- students are often reluctant to explore, to risk
Fear of failure- students fear failure in front of teachers and peers
Brain freeze- students have problems coming up with ideas repeatedly
Concentration- students get hung up on this "only being a class" and split their focus
Quick thinking- students may not have much practice thinking on their feet.
As a teacher, you must be willing to side coach and offer ideas to help students out, and keep them cooperative. Improvisation improves with practice. Consider some of the following tips on facilitating improvisation in your classroom.
Anything goes… within reason- have a wide spectrum of acceptance.
Conflict- avoid conflicts by accepting ideas and compromising them.
Saying no- improvisation must have yes answers to move forward. Encourage "yes!"
Encourage specifics- point out good, specific choices and encourage others.
Pantomime- If you have difficulty saying it… pantomime it!
Playwright on your feet- make it up as you go. Play now-critique later.
Discuss- point out good ideas and foster others.
Just do it!- jump in and have fun. Try not to be critical …be fun!
From Improv! A Handbook for Actors by Greg Atkins
Research shows that the main reason many students benefit from process drama is that they can often relate. This is why it is very important to make sure you deal with a "universal." A universal is a concept, idea, feeling, situation, or oppression that most people (hopefully everyone) can relate to. An example would be asking students to act out two types of people. Let's say the Reds and the Blues. The Reds make the Blues work for them, burn down their homes, and treat them very badly. This process drama is universal because it links to slavery, power struggle, control, the holocaust, prisoners of war, and more! Students are guaranteed to connect with some aspect of the lesson.
Some other universals include:
POWER, SEX, RACE, RIGHTS, LAWS, RESPECT,
DIFFERENCE, SEXUALITY, HEREDITY, SIZE, and CONTROL.
Decide on your goals or learning area (area of exploration).
This can be as specific or vague as you like. Choose what you are comfortable with. A goal could be an educational goal, or a class goal. Your learning area may be the Civil War, or Name-calling. Because this work is exploratory, this decision is very important.
Think of questions that will provoke thought and possibly lead to discovery of conflicts.
Plan your introduction.
Decide of your stages of development.
There must be a clear conflict, and a moment of decision in which the students make a real-life decision rather than acting out their decision.
Include some "gray area". Choose topics that make students define themselves through the decisions they make. Stay away from clearly "right" and "wrong" decision making.
Clarify when you are in and out of role by adding a physical prop to your character (a hat, a tie, etc.).
FORMAL VERSUS INFORMAL TEACHING
Here's a brief breakdown of some pros and cons of traditional instruction (formal) versus process-based (informal) instruction:
Teacher is in control ...................................
The event happened "then"..........................
Learners are lead along...............................
A quick system ..........................................
Teacher translates concepts........................
Holds learner to teacher's pace...................
Teacher seems vulnerable
The event is happening now
May seem haphazard and non-productive
Learners discover concepts
Work, learning, and progression is shared