Narrative Pantomime

Number of Players
What Is It and Why Use It?

Narrative Pantomime invites students to imagine and pantomime a character’s physical and emotional journey within a story, as narrated by a teacher. Narrative Pantomime can be used to expand students’ background knowledge of both factual and emotional story events through a specific character’s point of view. 


Prepare a narrative with rich sensory description and action that relates to the content inquiry. This can be written down to be read or improvised depending on familiarity with the topic. Invite students to gather in a large open space, free of furniture and distractions. Next, ask students to sit in their own space, so that they can move freely without disturbing others. Introduce the activity: In a moment, I will share a story and you will work, in your own space, to imagine and act out what you hear as if it happening to you. Share the prepared narrative. This is part of the story by Molly Bang called When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry. To begin, imagine you are small child sitting on the floor in your room. You have your warm, soft stuffed gorilla in your arms. It’s your favorite toy; Gorilla is your best friend. You play with Gorilla and make up an adventure. (Give them time to make an adventure and establish a connection with the toy.) Suddenly your little sister comes and takes Gorilla out of your hand, saying “MY TURN.” You scream, “No!” Your mom says that it IS her turn, now… You reach to grab the gorilla but you trip and fall over a train track and land on the ground hard. You stand up. You are angry. Really, really angry. In your own place (without making actual noise) you kick. You scream. You want to smash the world into smithereens. You roar a red, red roar… In your place your open your front door. Then, in your own place you run out into the woods next to your home. During the narrative, students can be asked to freeze and respond to questions about their inner thoughts. Or they can pause so that one part of the group can watch another part of the group perform their action. Sometimes it can be productive to bring the full group together in a moment of shared interaction with each other as well. There are numerous variations and possibilities with narrative pantomime.

  • What do you remember most from the story? What did you see/smell/touch/taste/hear? 
  • What was the character’s problem in our story? How did the character feel? Why?
  • What do you think happens next in the story?
Possible Side-Coaching
  • How can you show a specific choice in your body? Even if you aren’t making sound.
Possible Variations/Applications
  • Accompany narrative pantomimes with music. 
Source Citations

Ruth Henig and others