Improv as a substitute teacher

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Improv as a substitute teacher

Postby Scratch » December 4th, 2012, 7:37 pm

Has anyone used improv games as a substitute teacher?

The thought of subbing scares me more than my first improv class or first skydive. Seriously. I can't wait to start! But I want to arm myself.

So, what games do you think would work for classrooms of recalcitrant kids, especially older smart-ass ones in middle school or high school? Not too physical, should be easy for the students to self-include or pass or watch, and not be an easy set-up for the "How Much Can I Act Out And Disrupt the Class?" kid to wreak havoc. I have no lofty goals here, I just want have more things in my bag of tricks to keep control of the class. And have fun doing it.

So far, I'm thinking:
Three-headed monster interview where the questions could be related to the class subject (or not); any intentionally inappropriate/obscene answers get all three people disqualified (since it is a group effort)

Line at a time alphabet story, adapted to their class subject somehow (or not)

Other ideas? It's been a long time since I've done improv so I am drawing a big blank on games.
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Postby Spots » December 4th, 2012, 8:04 pm

Start with low risk games where everyone just gets comfortable acting silly in front of each other.

Circle games with real low pressure. Like Sound Ball, Energy Ball, or Pass The Thing.

Games that encourage & embrace failure. Which encourage creativity. Then work your way up to riskier games after the kids are already hooked into seeing the benefits of connecting & group play.

Should curb most people's insecurities (smart asses) so that you can take the class anywhere after that. Just agree on a sound level and tell people to keep it toned down if you're worried about havoc.


For instance invent a version of Sound Ball called "Whisper Ball."


Remember you'll be carrying the class on your own confidence. But most of all have fun!!!
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Postby wiggies » December 5th, 2012, 12:32 am

Category die
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Postby PyroDan » December 5th, 2012, 1:47 am

I taught all my kids improv as an acting style when I taught HS theatre they loved it, but it took awhile to break through the social stigmas for a lot of kids.

It may be really tough doing it as a sub, so I applaud your effort.

My advice would be to keep the stakes low, easy to follow and inclusive.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » December 5th, 2012, 11:05 am

slow motion samurai. kids love pretending to die for some reason. ;)
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Postby Scratch » December 7th, 2012, 1:20 pm

Thanks for these -

Jumping into it next week. Apparently some teachers do leave actual activities and lesson plans, but these will go into my back pocket for when/if they are needed.

I won't tell them it is improv... just a new way to review classroom material.
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Postby trabka » December 7th, 2012, 1:39 pm

Scratch wrote:Jumping into it next week. Apparently some teachers do leave actual activities and lesson plans, but these will go into my back pocket for when/if they are needed.


I substitute taught for a year and can confirm that all of them actually do leave lesson plans, at least in Austin. Worst case scenario: you'll have 15 minutes to stall at the beginning of first period if your assignment was super last minute.
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Postby wiggies » December 7th, 2012, 6:33 pm

Most schools require teachers to have some kind of emergency lesson plan on file. Most teachers have very little faith that a substitute will be able to actually teach their students anything, so those emergency plans are very often soul-crushing busywork. It's good to have something in your pocket.
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Postby Aden » December 8th, 2012, 10:03 am

games that can be done while still in their desks are useful. Kids actually really like word-at-a-time games, and many of them have been introduced to several games in other settings. When I was a classroom teacher, I would sometimes (not every time) have a game as a reward for getting through all of the material.

It's super awesome if the games used in the class also reinforce learning, but games just for fun are sweet too.

If it's a math class In To The Pond might be a useful improv game
If it's an english class Word At A Time story might be useful

Games the kids probably know and can teach you (I find it useful to ask kids what their favorite game and have them do the teaching for a little while keeping myself in the role of facilitator):
Statues in the Park
Zombie Assassin
Song Circle (AKA hot spot)

I would not assume that kids know the above games, but they'll tell you what games they do know.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » December 8th, 2012, 12:40 pm

oooh, i don't know Statues in the Park! teach me! :)
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Postby Aden » December 9th, 2012, 2:31 am

Statues in the Park reminds me of Doctor Who a little bit. All of the kids are statues in a park. They can only move when you are not looking directly at them. If you catch them moving (giggling, wiggling, flinching, or moving to another location in the room) then they are out. I've always just had them go sit back down, but I know one teacher who has them become "ducks in a pond." Watch out though, because ducks are LOUD. The idea is to encourage them to take bigger risks like with Kitty Wants a Corner. Kids love it.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » December 9th, 2012, 5:43 am

...and i'm officially frightened of this game. ;)
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