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Applied Improvisation for early learning! Benefits for the whole school and beyond.

a group of children standing around each other

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Applied Improvisation for early learning, benefits for the whole school! – Author Anja Phillips

Applied improvisation has several benefits in early learning and education for children’s development! In this blog post, we will examine the critical role teachers have in playing with children and how applied improvisation can help teachers correctly play with children for both parties’ benefits.

The problem is that teachers are often choosing “predictable responses or roles” when it comes to playing, which, perhaps to their surprise, diminishes the children’s playing and learning experience. Research* and evidence* has shown the following: many teachers do not know how to be responsive to children in regards to play, how to correctly engage with play, and a majority of their interactions with children do not propel the activity.  Many time teachers tend to predictably act as dictators, interpreters, and observers of children’s play by merely watching or giving instructions that control where the play is headed.

Now, you may be wondering, why is this bad? Isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do? Studies show that when teachers interact with children in this way during play, the learning experience is significantly lessened in that children do not absorb information as well and are less likely to interact with their peers.  In addition, the communication between the children and their teachers suffer as the teachers’ tendency to dictate and interpret play influences how they speak with children, causing an overall lack of active listening on their part and several misunderstandings during conversation.

If teachers can play supportively and creatively with the children they teach, their children will be more intellectually stimulated, absorb more information, and have more complex interactions with their peers and the teachers themselves. Teachers can learn how to do just this through applied improvisation while still effectively managing their classrooms. The collaborative, supportive, playful nature of applied improvisation is similar to how children play. Here is what the “Yes, and” technique has taught teachers and how:

-Teachers are players too! When teachers themselves participate in applied improvisation and start getting used to not only saying “Yes, and” but having that mindset, teachers establish themselves as participators of play, rather than just observers and controllers of play. Teachers often feel comfortable in those more predictable roles, and “Yes, and” can help them feel more comfortable with perhaps the uncomfortable role of being players as well.

-Creative risk-taking and problem-solving skills: By using “Yes, and” in a low stakes environment during gameplay, teachers can practice acceptance of offers (by saying “Yes”) and building off of said offers regardless of what that offer was (with “and”). Given that no one can ever plan for what offer or circumstances will be given, “Yes, and” allows teachers to hone their skills in managing the unexpected through risk-taking and creativity. In teaching, there exists a pressure to do things perfectly and get things right. Not to mention, children can be quite unexpected. Thus, by practicing the use of “Yes, and” in improv gameplay, teachers can both relieve this pressure and gain confidence in managing uncertainty.

-Active-listening: As aforementioned above, teachers tend to assume predictable roles where they interrupt, lead, and dominate conversations with children as they would in children’s play. In the study outlined by the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, the teachers credited “Yes, and” to helping them understand the difference between “listening in the sense of not interrupting or being distracted, and listening in a way that allows you to work collectively with the other person.” In applied improv, one must be completely present and actively listening to use “Yes, and.” Through “Yes, and,” teachers realized when they were or weren’t listening in gameplay, making them recognize they must not always be truly listening when they interact with children. Teachers in the study were able to evaluate and improve their listening skills by committing to “Yes, and” in their classrooms, and through doing so, they bettered their interactions with children by being more collective conversationalists.

“Yes, and” is not just for children, but for the teachers as well. Ready to start saying “Yes, and”?   Our certified team at KidScape Productions will come directly to you. We are international and promote a cohesive, sustainable approach to communication, collaboration and creation by offering single or ongoing in-class field trips. We also have the option of offering virtual classrooms and online modules.  If you are looking for district, school-wide professional developments, or presentations, please visit our sister company Team Building On Purpose, that hosts our experts from various fields. For an engaging keynote speaker in education, corporations, and mental health, please see Christiana Frank Consulting.

Author: Anja Phillips






  • Murray, Jane (2018) The play’s the thing.


  • Skolnick Weisberg, Deena, Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy; Michnick Golinkoff, Roberta; Kittredge K. Audrey, Klahr, David (2016) Guided Play: Principles and Practices




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