YES...AND Improv in the Classroom
Improvisation is an ideal pedagogical strategy. It promotes literacy skill development because it encourages creation, analysis, and interpretation of text.
The impact that improv has on classroom learning can be directly linked to the current thinking on Social Emotional Learning. When students feel connected and emotionally invested in their experiences, they reach higher levels of learning and understanding.
Active play links sensory-motor, cognitive, and social emotional experiences and provides the optimal setting for brain development. The act of play develops the complex and integrated brain, so essential for learning, during childhood, throughout adolescence, and into adulthood. Therefore, students should have a variety of active learning experiences in all content areas including mathematics, language, social studies, the humanities, and science.
Improv is a valuable classroom strategy because it has both inherent structure and flexibility. Its structure stems from the problem solving process the players must apply to complete each task. Flexibility stems from simplicity; the students create everything that is needed from their own imagination. This makes improvisation a useful tool for developing first-rate writers, readers, and thinkers – as well as building healthy social relationships.
Of all the teacher trainings I've had in 13 years of teaching, Dr. Katherine McKnight and her colleague Elaine provided one of the most hilariously useful presentations I've ever experienced. They didn't just talk at us or show us things; they had us up and moving, experiencing, thinking, doing the improv. We were actively learning – just like we want our students to learn!
– A.V.B., Middle School teacher in Dutton, MI
I had no idea how valuable improv strategies could be in order to teach social emotional skills, review content knowledge, and to build a community of learners in the classroom. I'll utilize these strategies to engage my students and to help me hear the voices of all of my students.
– C.S., STEAM teacher in MN.
I've been to countless professional development sessions that promise ‘student engagement,’ so I was more than hesitant to buy in. However, because I personally was so engaged in the activities from the get-go, I realized quickly this wasn't another throw-away PD class that I'd forget by tomorrow.
– A.W., 8th grade teacher in Choctaw, OK
Improv activities are usable in the classroom and will get students excited about learning. It is hard to find activities that not only fit middle school students but also math.
– K.C., Algebra teacher in Arlington Heights, IL
Katie McKnight literally wrote the book on Improv in the Classroom...
...and she's been advancing its use with K-12 students for over a decade! Most activities and learning strategies presented in the Engaging Learners YES...AND professional development are based on research that was done for the best selling book, The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom: Using Improvisation to Teach Skills and Boost Learning, by Katherine McKnight and Mary Scruggs. (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Each exercise has continued to be fine-tuned through years of experience with actual students in classrooms just like yours.
The skill set that students practice in traditional literacy development activities – prediction, sequencing, vocabulary building, inference, and reflection – are all used in improvisation. The difference is that, in improv, students practice these skills in an active and engaging manner.
Engaging Learners presenters are uniquely qualified to train K-12 teachers in the principles of improv for the classroom and help them identify effective applications in any content area. Teachers leave each session with tools they can use in their classrooms the very next day. Let us know if you’re interested in a 1-day, stand-alone workshop for your school district or conference. Or ask us how you can incorporate improvisation and active learning into your 3-step literacy development plan.