Lesson Lovenotes: Improvisation Using Theatresports

So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone in this post.

  1. I’ll share with you some tried and tested ways of improvising in the drama classroom;
  2. Test out my skills at movie-making using Xtranormal;

That’s not asking too much of myself now is it? No… *rolls eyes*🙂

Honestly though, the reason I’m doing all this is because I’m trying to improve how enaging my posts are for readers as well as trying to experiment with some of the new tools I’ve been reading about through my Twitter feed and on various other blogs. There’s a lot available out there and sometimes it seems like I’ll never get round to trying all of it out! Also, like I mentioned the other day, I’m trying to build readership and navigating the world of blogging is a little tricky. I only set up Hootsuite I few months ago as part of the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge and it’s a pretty detailed little website that I’m still learning all the in’s and out’s of.

But first what is Improvisation?

I used this an opportunity to test out Xtranormal and it is a pretty nifty site.Once you’ve created an account you can choose from a range of styles and characters. In mine I chose robots but there are super heroes, gangsters and all kinds of things. The most you can use is two actors per film but the ability to control shot choice, music and sound effects is really simple and all of it can be done on the one screen. You can watch your film back at any time and you can save it and work on it later if you have to go away and do something else. You can also create “Series” folders to put your movies into. I created a “Teaching and Learning in the Drama Room” folder in case I decide to create any more films that are Drama related. Once saved, the videos become available for people to watch on the Xtranormal site or you can publish them to YouTube as well if you prefer.

The only difficulties I had were embedding the clip into my blog from the Xtranormal viewing page. I then uploaded it to my YouTube Channel (which is a whole other post in itself) and embedded it directly from there. If you want to make your own Xtranormal clip, use these instructions.

Here’s the clip that Lionel mentioned in the video about the brain and how it works when improvising.

OK, what exactly is Theatre Sports?

Google Theatre Sports in Australia and you’ll be amazed at what you will find. There are so many groups out there that provide opportunities for people to participate in Theatre Sports. I currently have an Intermediate Team of four Year 9 students preparing to enter the School’s Theatre Sports Challenge in a couple of weeks. We have been preparing by doing extra rehearsals in the holidays to ensure we have a strategy, know all the games and communicate together as a team. It is a fantastic opportunity for them to see what they are capable of as actors and to see what other school student’s are doing in their local area. I am feeling like we have a pretty good chance.

Why Play Theatre Sports?

Improvisation and in particular, Theatre Sports as a tool for improvisation is great for student actors for a number of reasons. It allows them to learn to think quickly and sponatenously, adapt to situations and problem solve, work with student’s they may not be familiar with, create a range of characters and use a variety of voice, facial and physically expressive techniques.

How should I structure my Improvisation unit using Theatre Sports?

There are two ways I feel Theatre Sports can be used in the classroom:

  1. As a unique mini-unit on it’s own or
  2. As a series of warm-ups that link to a larger concept being explored in the lesson.

That’s the great thing about Theatre Sports. Whilst you can make a whole mini-unit out of them, there are so many games that the possibility to incorporate them into other areas and units of work is very easy. You really have such a huge arsenal of games that can be adapted to any area of drama.

I personally incorporate Theatre Sports into my introductory study of Drama at the beginning of Year 9. We learn about the elements of drama and use Theatre Sports games to help us understand some of these concepts.

I also hold an In-School’s Theatre Sports Competition at my school as an extra-curricular activity. Anyone from Year 7-12 is invited to make a team. I hold workshops after school to show the teams how to play each of the games. I invite other teacher’s to judge and score each team and I award certificates at the end of the competition to all team members and winners.

Have a look at my Picasa Web Album here of my recent competition.

So, how does it work?

I model my unit and my In School Theatre Sports Competition on Impro Australia’s School’s Theatresports Challenge.

Try something like this:

  • Choose a series of games for a number of rounds. About six is sufficient.
  • Each game in each round should vary in length. You should try to make them get longer and the games a little bit more challenging each round.
  • Score each team after each game on things like a) how well do they follow the rules?,  b) does it make sense? and c) are they entertaining?
  • Teams can create a team name and team costume. Maybe even chants for their team.
  • Choose a time to preview and “advertise” what the student’s are doing either through a school assembly, newsletter, noticeboards, posters, You Tube clip, Edmodo. Whatever will get them in.

Web Resources

Book Resources

I would also strongly recommend Improvisation: A Guide by Lyn Pierse. It’s my bible and can be ordered here.

Video Resources

What’s your experience with Theatre Sports? Do you have any other ideas, suggestions or feedback? Let me know in the comments.

Image Credits:

Thank God You’re Here, from Thank God You’re Here Official Site, Copyright © 2011 Yahoo!7

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Lesson Lovenotes: Elements of Drama Teaching Suggestions « Drama Teacher's Network

  2. I use theatre sports with my students by creating a Comedy Sportz High School League team. Comedy Sportz is a competitive improv show based in LA (I am pretty sure these types of shows can be found in most cities, just under different names). My students initially learned games through the performers from LA (the performers act as coaches and referees for the student games). Once leaned, they teach and share with the new incoming participants. We practice twice a week after school and then have monthly games. We rotate players each game, sometimes play against other schools, and once a year play students vs. teacher which the audience members love. For each game, a player from the professional team in LA comes to host the game and be the referee. They provide students with feedback after each game. During the game there are 2 teams of 4 and a handful of games that are selected in advance, however all suggestions for those games come from the live audience.

    I think teaching improv is so important, especially early on in a theatre class because students begin to feel more comfortable working as an ensemble and start to build their self-confidence.

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