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, January 6, 2008

Improvisational Learning

I have been doing improv activities with my classes for the past two years. It has served as a great tool to develop a sense of team among my students. My school (Primary K-2) also has an
Aesthetics Program, in which students chose or are enrolled in an elective course once a week for the semester. Using the games from Unscripted Learning, I have developed an "Improvisational Learning" Aesthetic for this year.

In the way the description was written up in the school handbook, teachers enrolled students in the course who they identified as students who would benefit from relationship building. After 7 course meetings, I am so happy to report that is what we are developing.

I have been so blown away with how this course has impacted the relations of 8 first and second grade students who, other than in this course, do not know each other. The relationships that are being built seem quite genuine as we play games such as "The Clapping Game', "Woosh", "Yes, and" and many more. Even more in the debriefing discussions we have!

It is a completely different experience for me from how we use improvisation with my class of students. While this "team" does not see each other everyday or are involved in each others' academic growth, I see that they are very much a part of each others' social development. They are learning from each other, and through these games, ways to develop social skills to develop relationships with students in their own classes (exactly what their teachers hoped they would gain).

It is incredible how each of the individual personalities in the class have contributed to and benefited from each other. The excitement from the girl who always enters the class angry, the intent look on the face of another girl who loves to talk as she listens to her teammate share, the smile on the face of the excruciatingly shy boy after he "takes a turn." Improvisatonal learning brings creates this for these students.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I am a SEIT teacher (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) and an EI (Early Intervention Teacher) and work with children ages 0 -5 in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Most of the time, I work with one child either in their home or their day care center. I work primarily to work with the child within the context of their day and classroom. Therefore, I am usually involved with the entire classroom; not just "my" student.

So...all that to say, I am currently working in a day care center with a little girl...let's call her Alicia. I spend at least two hours each morning with Alicia and the class...mostly following and assisting Alicia in her regular routines. On this particular day, the class had been going though some major reorganization. Their teacher was having a difficult time and also having a difficult time managing the activity of the class. She asked me for some help.

At that moment, the children were to sit on the rug and listen to a story...She was trying to accomplish this organizing activity; and was not being successful. They were having a great time reading books, hitting each other, and otherwise not listening to their teacher. I suggested that perhaps we could all play a game...and they all, including the teacher, eagerly said YES !!!!!!!

I asked them to all make a circle by holding hands...the class consists of 18 four and five year olds..They made a circle.....

I then introduced the "Whoosh" Game and gave a demonstration "whooshing" to another teacher who imitated me. It was so lovely to watch how quickly they picked up the "whoosh" as we went around the circle so all could have the opportunity to experience the sound, activity, and fun of "whooshing". Before I knew it, we were "whooshing" each other with almost no teacher intervention. Even the kids who usually can't even stand still in a circle were eagerly waiting their turn to "whoose" with little intervention from either teachers or kids.

I got excited mostly as they were so involved in this game and activity...I introduced the "Zip, Zap, Zop" Game. We began by going around in the circle and having the "zip,zap,zop" refrain correctly by learning it together. This was a bit challenging and we did complete the circle of children completing it collectively.

However, once we started playing it...it proved to be a bit too complicaterd...however, in later days...could be easily taught. The children were happy to go back to playing the "Whoosh Game".

Oh...the "behavior" that the teacher was reacting to before we began playing....well, it vanished as the children were engaged and being part of an activity that they were building...be it Whoosh! or Zip Zap Zop ....development is happening!

(Will keep you posted as I continue to experiment in different environments and class rooms with Improv games...)

Gayle Weintraub, M.S. Ed.
Special Educator