About the Authors

Carrie Lobman and Matthew Lundquist are the Authors of Unscripted Learning: Using Improv Activities Across the K-8 Curriculum.

Carrie Lobman, EdD is Assistant Professor of Education at The Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University. She is the director of the Developing Teachers Fellowship Program at the East Side Institute. Send an email to Carrie

Monday, May 7, 2007

Team Building in a Brownsville, Brooklyn Classroom

One of the classes I work with is a self-contained Special Education class that has second and third grade students. The teacher, paraprofessionals, students and I have used Improv and Performance activities to create a community of acceptance, collaboration, and productivity throughout this school year. This has been a challenging process since all of the students in this classroom were placed in Special Education classes since they were five years old. They have experienced failure, low expectations and a continued acceptance of their negative and anti-social behaviors.

When I started working with this class, I introduced myself as their teacher’s coach and asked them if they would be willing to work as a team to help their teacher learn some new and different ways of working with them. The class enthusiastically agreed to assist me. We engaged in Improv activities and theatrical performances that allowed them to create a space where they can experience new ways of being a team.

During our April session, a parent came to the classroom to observe her son who had been newly admitted. When she arrived, her son was being coached by the other students in our warm-up game of Whoosh. The other students helped him learn the game and encouraged him to “keep playing” whenever he made a mistake. They told him that “his job as a team member is to keep going so that their teacher can learn how to work with them better”. We started to act out some Improv scenes when the parent entered the room. The setting of one of the scenes was in the school playground where one student helps another student find their way home. The teacher, paraprofessionals, and I all took parts in the scenes with the students while the parent observed. The parent then asked if she could join in one of the scenes with one of the students. I cautiously said yes, because I was concerned that she would try to take over the scene. What occurred next was impressive and encouraging. The student took the parent’s hand and instructed her where to stand off stage and how to wait until they were announced to come on stage. The parent followed the student’s lead throughout the scene and they created a beautiful “Yes, And” story together which included the parent giving a convincing performance of crying because she was lost and the student telling her that she would be her friend and help her get home. We all clapped enthusiastically at the end of the scene.

The parent stayed for the entire class and joined the other activities that we played during that period. She then stated that she had never seen her son so engaged in class work and thanked me for letting her join us. According to this parent our work should be a mandated part of all school curriculums.

I believe that the students and teachers in this school would agree with her. I know that I do!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like great work. How can I get more information?