Paired/Group Improvisation is a strategy in which students step into role to explore character motivation and problem-solving within a specific set of given circumstances. This flexible strategy can be used to fill in gaps in a text that the author does not provide, to interrogate a historical or current event, to explore cause and effect for a character, to explore a relationship between two characters, or to understand/express multiple perspectives about a character within a situation.
Break students into pairs or small groups depending on the inquiry. Introduce the activity: In this strategy we will explore a specific moment between characters. We will do this work improvisationally, meaning we will make it up as we go, and we will do it at the same time so that your pair/group can explore your thinking on your own without an audience. Introduce a scenario to explore. Next, make sure students understand: who they are in the scene (their character); what they are doing (a specific action to play is helpful); where they are (the setting); and, why they are in the scene (the motivation for their words and actions – what do they want). Ask students to begin their scenes at the same time. Afterwards, the full group gathers to dialogue about the meaning-making generated during the scenes.
- How did it go?
- What did you discover about the characters or conflict? Was your character successful in reaching their goal/objective? Why or why not?
- What external forces, ideas, or people shape this specific situation or conflict?
- Incorporate your character’s objectives into the scene. If they don’t get what they want how can you try a different tactic?
- “Yes, and” an offer from your scene partner to continue the dialogue.
- How will your scene end? What decision or choice has been made?
- During the activity, pause all the scenes and ask one group (that is highly engaged and successful) to resume their scene so the rest can listen/watch for a minute; this can highlight strong work and help support groups that need further modeling to be successful.
- Have students stay in character after the paired improvisation ends and ask them to join a meeting or interview (led by the teacher in role) to talk about what happened in their scenes.
- Reading/Writing or Social Studies: When reading a text, have students act out a scene that takes place before or after a story or event. Have students explore moments of history or scientific discovery to explore key themes, ideas or conflicts.