Using Applied Improvisation in Education
When we think of applied improvisation, we perhaps think of theatre and classic mottos such as “Yes, And,” “Make your scene partner look good” or “Everything is a gift.” While this is true, we are seeing an expansion of the basic principles of applied improvisation into a growing set of applications to be used in a broad range of educational settings, helping students to become master learners, creators, adapters, collaborators, and communicators. Through spotlighting the application and success of applied improvisation in the classrooms, we hope to encourage its further use in school curriculum, preparing students to embrace mistakes and become world-class problem solvers.
The problem is there is a hesitancy to applied improvisation based education as it breaks and goes beyond the structure of students looking to learn from their professors. Rather, students are learning from each other and their environments to create something out of nothing together. Now, one may think that an education based in improvisation games is solely meant for actors. However, it is these very games that help to combat anyone’s automatic adverse response to anything new and different, allowing all students, whether actors or not, to practice being comfortable in the uncomfortable. Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.” Thus, no matter what role our students choose to play in life, they will be ready to conquer the unexpected and create victories through the application of their applied improvisation curriculum. These foundational applied improvisation methods, embedded into all of our structured gameplay, help to create a deeply collaborative supportive environment that is ideal for learning:
-“Yes, And”: Saying “Yes, And” as opposed to “No, But” does more than just help propel a scene forward. This philosophy of accepting all given offers creates a trusting environment where students are curious to explore risk-taking as well as gain practice in adapting to their surroundings, assisting them in feeling more confident in taking risks outside the classroom.
-“Make your scene partner look good”: Both in and outside of the theatre, it is important to yield and practice understanding when to be big and when to be small in order to be a successful collaborator and team player as opposed to one who is too stuck in their own agenda. This motto reminds students that your collaborators are your equals and your teammates. This further cultivates a supportive environment as it encourages openness and respect to those around you.
-“Everything is a gift”: As we say in applied improvisation, there are no wrong answers! This mantra is at the heart of all improvisation games as it teaches students to embrace mistakes and learn from them. This creates a productive learning environment where students are more willing to charge fearlessly into their lives both in and out of the classroom.
Just saying these mantras to our students is not enough though. It is when they practice these mottos in their bodies through applied improvisation games in a low-stakes environment that they can start to train their brains to not only believe them but practice them, increasing their learning in the classrooms and skills as master collaborative communicators outside the classrooms. Further, it is important to remember that applied improvisation curriculum must be taught carefully, so do not be afraid to reach out to KidScape Productions as a resource. We can always improve with improv! Let’s teach our students to go forth with a “Yes, And” mentality to help them achieve their greatest dreams. https://kidscapeproductions.com/ (International. On-site trainings, virtual classrooms, webinars and modules available)
– Anja Phillips
For 18 and over, professional developments, train the trainers and our mental health trainings, see: https://teambuildingonpurpose.com/