5 Tips for Using Improv as a Homeschool Teaching Strategy

We can probably all agree: Improv acting is funny. But did you know that some improvisational acting techniques could be used in a homeschool classroom as a teaching tool?

Why Improv?

Why would you use improvisational acting techniques? True, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and other improv skits are funny, but do they have a place in the classroom? Certainly! Humor helps us remember material and improves our engagement with it.

Improv values what your child has to say. A recent Edutopia blog post indicates that improv forces us to “be in the moment,” paying close attention to what your child says and does. Think about it: If an improv actor will effectively play off a cast mate, they need to pay attention to what the fellow actor says or does.

Improv actors always want to make each other look good. Children are motivated to learn when they shine, not when they’re called out and told they’re wrong. No improv troupe is perfect; neither is your child. When children make a mistake, emphasize the value of making errors to instill freedom and confidence in your child.

Improv Tips

As we have seen, improv can empower children and provoke them to deeper learning. How can we use it in our teaching? The key is thinking of improv not as a comedy technique, but as a way of interacting. Here are five key tips to effectively incorporate improv into the homeschool classroom:

1. Create Something

Children interact with something through creativity. Have them create something, such as a story, song, poem, or drawing about a learned concept. They can develop a theory about something they’re about to learn, such as a scientific principle or the conclusion of a short story. Such activities inspire creativity and help children gain ownership in their work, making learning more meaningful to them.

2. “Yes, And” Conversations

A hallmark of improv is the “yes, and” conversation, when one actor makes a statement and another actor builds on that statement by saying, “Yes, and.” The word “yes” accepts the offer while “and” builds on it. By building on each other’s statements, children learn collaboration, brainstorming, and listening techniques. Recap a lesson by giving them a statement and having them respond “yes, and.”

3. Incorporate Freeze Tag

If you have multiple children, freeze tag is a great role-playing opportunity. Have two children act out a scene, such as a communication concept or an historical event. If the scene reaches an error or a lull, a third child (or you) can yell, “Freeze,” replace an actor, and continue the scene. Like “yes, and”, freeze tag teaches collaboration and listening skills while offering a hands-on look at a concept.

4. Five-Headed Expert

Again, if you have multiple children, consider creating the five-headed expert (or fewer, depending on the number of children). Ask children a question, and have them respond with one word or one sentence at a time. This game encourages children to listen to each other and think about how individual words or sentences build their understanding.

5. Circus Bow

The circus bow, suggested by Andrea Young, a professor at Ripon College, instills confidence in children. Whenever Young or a student makes a mistake, they take a circus bow and say, “I failed.” This shifts the reaction to the mistake from embarrassment to humor, diffusing tension. Children learn to acknowledge mistakes and move forward from them.

In Short

More than just entertainment, improv acting can improve your child’s learning experience in the classroom by instilling confidence and motivation, teamwork, brainstorming, creativity, and listening skills. These skills, along with those discussed on K12.com, can increase the efficacy of your classroom experience.

Featured Image – Flickr Bonner Springs Library / CC by 2.0


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