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

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Using Performance as a Catalyst for Writing

*I did this activity for teaching a writing technique, but I was thinking that it could be used for any content piece that involves something structured or formulaic (math, anyone)?!

Game: Let's Be Clear, Dear!

Level: Intermediate
Grade Level: 7th Grade and Up
Time Needed: 20 minutes and up
Materials: Colorful Sheets of paper (labeled, see below*)

It is important to allow students to use their creativity and ingenuity to learn. I strongly believe that students can use these natural gifts to master content and learn important skills.

Recently, I came up with an improvisational game based on the Yes-and game. The improvisational objective is to show students how to listen closely to others and to accept and build upon offers. The skill objective is to orally build a strong developmental paragraph. I wanted students to understand that every idea should link to the next in writing and speaking.

The paragraph structure we have been working on is: Topic sentence ("TS), General Example ("GE"), Specific Detail ("SD"), Transition word/phrase ("TW"), General Example ("GE"), Specific Detail ("SD"), Transition word/phrase ("TW"), General Example ("GE"), Specific Detail ("SD"), ("Clincher Statement").


First, a group of students should model how to play the game. The teacher hands out colorful sheets of construction paper to ten students. Each of the sheets should be labeled with one of the following elements of a strong paragraph (TS, GE, SD, TW, GE, SD, TW, GE, SD, CS).

Students stand in front of the room and figure out the correct order of a developmental paragraph (TS, GE, SD, TW, GE, SD, TW, GE, SD, CS). Students stand in that order, holding their labeled sheets in front of them. The rest of the class offers help and feedback.

Once in the correct order, students begin to create an improvisational paragraph. If a student makes a mistake or is having difficulty, he/she can ask for feedback. When the paragraph has been completed, students re-state each of their sentences. Students can ask questions, defend their position, etc.

Once the activity has been modeled, all students can participate. I have tried circular formations and having students sit in their seats. The circle works better for groups that are just beginning to learn the game, and sitting in their seats is more of a challenge! I always recommend use of the labeled sheets (to help visual learners connect the offer to the type of sentence).

Other writing instruction applications for this game: teaching elements of narrative, expository, persuasive, and DBQ essay writing

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