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WEEKLY SYLLABUS


Week 1:

Jumping in!

The goal for this week: 

  • Introduce the kids to each other and to the process. Whatever you do here is establishing a culture for the classes – set the right tone and the whole class will go much more easily.

  • Teach the concept of embracing risk. This is a fundamental concept, one to build the class on and one to come back to over and over again. 

The basic improv philosophy behind the goal:   Fun is your north star – whenever you are lost figure out what is fun and do that. Encourage them to let go of getting it right and just go with the flow. “The fun leaks out in the pauses” is a concept I try to get across when kids are hesitating.  


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm up games: 

Pass the clap, woosh, evolution, sound ball, traffic jam, that wig, mighty whispers

Name Games:

Gesture and motion -repetition, Outlaw, You, Zombie Tag, the Sheet Game

Failure Games:

Teach Failure Bow - have everyone take a failure bow either in front of the class or in pairs. Zip-zap-zop - practice taking a failure bow during zip-zap-zop, Big Booty, Giving wrong names to things, Category Die, dwarf-wizard-giant, rock-paper-scissors tournament.


Week 2:

Acceptance and addition 

The goal for this week: 

  • Introduce the kids to the concept of yes

  • Then introduce them to the concept of and.

  • Don’t focus on the words “yes, and” too much or that becomes a rule and meaningless. Instead, focus on accepting what is happening and then adding to it. 


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm ups: 

Sound ball,  Evolution, Whoosh, I am a tree - spend a good long time on this as I am a tree is a fundamental yes and exercise, Clay. 

Exercises: 

 “No, but” “Yes, but” and “Yes, and” parties.  3 line scene starts using Yes And, “Not only that but!” accept and add scenes, Where have my fingers been,  Tell a story to a partner, tell it again, but you die in the end, tell it again but you end up a millionaire in the end. 

Performance Games:  

Slideshow, Alien interview, What are you doing, Creating Machines, Elevator, Blind line or Hesitation debate


Week 3:  

Be Obvious

The goal for this week: 

  • Introduce them to the concept that being obvious is “lazy” improv and we want to encourage that because no one wants to work hard- again reference the “Fun is your north star.”  

  • Let them know that trying hard to be clever often doesn’t land well and is much harder than just saying the next thing.

  • If you say the obvious thing one of three things will happen 

    • The audience doesn’t laugh but they do understand what is going on.

    • The audience recognises what you meant and it was satisfying in a fun way and they laugh.

    • The audience is surprised by what you said, but because it is obvious on at least one level, they also recognize it. This surprise and recognition leads them to laugh. 


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm ups:  

House/creature/tornado, 5 things, Free Association (wind/unwind), Walk around naming objects - then point and name the last thing you pointed at- so you are one behind,  

Exercises: 

I am a tree (again!), Shoe boxes (open it and name what is inside, close it and then open again) - You can be very elaborate with this and open and close all sorts of things, “Yes, and” lines - saying the next most obvious thing.

Performance Games: 

3 headed expert or word at a time story, Tag Team Monologue, Hitchhiker. 


Week 4:

Taking care of your partner  - This can easily stretch to 2 weeks. 

The goal for this week :

  • Help them see how much more interesting things are when you work together rather than alone. 

  • Showing them that focusing on your partner helps to take the pressure off yourself. 


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm ups: 

Bunny Bunny, Evolution, Wind/unwind - you free associate around the circle, then everyone says the words as you go back around to the first person, Sound ball, Shoulder Tag (everyone is it.)

Exercises:  

Mirror - the same, slow and fast - sharing control- opposite - whatever is fun, Eyes on Paper, Clay, Tug of war in pairs then as a class, rotate the first player, Giving Gifts, Endowment lines.  If you need to kill time then have them each with one crayon of a different color and one piece of paper. Have them draw for 1 minute then pass to the left, then one minute, pass until they come around back to the first.  Watch them so they don’t start “ruining” papers.  Also encourage them to “add” to the picture.  

Dolphin Training! 


Performance Games: 

Helping Hands, Typewriter, or Narrated story,  “Well if it isn’t….” a person walks through the door and the scene partner names them and they continue. 


Week 5:

Characters - This can easily stretch to 2 or more weeks. 

The goal for this week: 

  • Introduce the kids to the concept of character and why they are important. 

  • Introduce several ways of creating characters 

  • Have the kids discover their own voice through the characters they create


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm up: 

Evolution, Sound Ball, Trading characters across the circle - you’ll put on a big character and go stand in front of another student, they take on the character and then come to the center and morph that into a new character and give it to someone around the circle. Emotional Fruit Salad - find a pair to be happy with (not at, with) let them be happy for about 30 seconds, now find your sad partner, go through several emotions - angry, loving, excited, scared then have them go back, and then keep matching up with the different partners and expressing that emotion in different ways - make this quicker and quicker until it feels like you are done.


Exercises:   

There are several ways to access character and I like to try a few of them.  One way is not better than another; it is helpful to have a bunch of character tools in your tool belt.


  • Animals – this is easiest for the littlies to understand. You choose an animal to become and then become less human/more animal from 1-5. Pick animals that are easily translated into characters – like a bunny, a snake and a lion (with the aggressive characters it is good to tell them they cannot attack the other lions!) At different levels throw in activities, for example “you are a scared bunny rabbit” “ You are a snake looking for food.”  “You are a tired lion.”  For the younger classes I like to end with them going to sleep as their animal – then they can wake up human again.


Play scenes where someone is a “bunny-like teacher and a snake-like principal.”  These interactions can be delightful. Try different combinations - let the kids say what they want, but also challenge them to try things that are not their normal way of being. This is a low pressure way to get into status.


  • Movement- Have the kids walk around the space and notice their normal walking patterns, do they walk slowly? On their heels? Swinging their arms? Stress that what they do is fine, but they just need to notice it. Then have them change a physical characteristic – Lead them at first;  “stick your stomach out.”  They will then walk around with that physicality.  Then say “exaggerate that posture, and let it affect the rest of your body.”  You will see them morph even more. Ask “What kind of character walks like this?”  Often they will shout out answers “good!” I say.  “All of those are right!”  Ask them to greet each other in their character. These are often very exaggerated characters – which is fine.  Sometimes it is easier to start big and then pull back whenever you need to.  Have them shake that off and move into different body parts.  When they are in character is it fun to shout out “What kind of pet do you have?” or “Where do you live.”  You can either have them actually answer out loud, or just know the answer for themselves.  

If you move into scenes from this –try dimming or turning off the lights to give them a second to move into place. Then have them start the scene with a bit of silent movement or space work – direct them to have an emotion through their space work.  


  • Voice - Have them go each into their own space - facing a wall or corner. Have them talk for 10-20 seconds - just to hear the sound of their own voice. Then instruct them to do a series of different voices; High, Low, Fast, Slow, Staccato, Legato; each time they should do a 10-20 second monologue. Give them a topic to talk about. Then start mixing these together: Fast and High, or Staccato and Low, etc. Make sure you get them to notice how just changing the voice already informs the character. Ask them what characters THEY feel/hear when they are doing the different voices.  


Performance games:  Character Advice, Soap Opera, Sit, Stand Kneel, Eye contact with Music, Gibberish/English with a bell, Dear Diary (write out loud in your diary, every time you ring a bell they go to the next page) Inner Voices.


Week 6: 

More Character: 

The goal for this week: 

  • They have spent a week (or 3) coming up with big and over the top characters, this week will be focusing on more grounded, realistic characters.

  • Creating characters that are realistic but not the exact same as yourself.


The exercises and games and things to do this week:

Warm ups:

Knife Throwing (Die, Not today!), Morphing objects around the circle, Teach your friend how to be a monster. 


Exercises: 


From yourself – This is deceptively simple.  You simply react to the world as if you have your own emotions and reactions, but you have the concerns and background of the character (this will give you the most subtle and realistic looking characters.)  You have them sit with their eyes closed, then I have them try to really look into what they are feeling and how they are thinking, really ground themselves. You describe a situation such as:  You have been hunting through a jungle for treasure,  you need this treasure and cannot leave the jungle without it.  If you do, the mob will kill you. You finally track it down, and in front of the cave is another treasure hunter.  “Think for a second (it is fun to watch their faces here as they contort with emotion.) “now say or do what you would say or do'' It is awesome to see the variations here.  Some of the kids will yell out something, some will move, etc.  Continue with other scenarios.  Eventually in scene work set up the character for them (a doctor with financial worries, a grandpa who loves candy) and have the different characters interact with each other.  This is very helpful for the more intellectual based improviser.


Character Gauntlet:  Create a character when the bell rings, create another 10x.  Ring the bell about 2-5 seconds apart.  All the kids should do this, either in front of the audience or in pairs. 


Performance Games:

New Choice, Character Advice, He said/She said, Sit-Stand-Kneel, Little Voice, Hell Dub, Family Portrait (or year book photo), Animal scenes, 


Week 7:

Story

The goal for this week:

  • Introduce the Kids to how stories work and what good story structure is.

  • Have them create many many stories so they are less precious about each one. 


Personally, I have a pet peeve with the whole beginning middle end thing.  I prefer introduction (or platform), change and rising action, change and resolution.


Story Spine: Once upon a time…, and every day…, until one day…., and because of that…., and because of that…, and because of that..., until finally…, and ever since that day…..


Games and Exercises to try this week:

Warm ups: 

Cat and Mouse, Convergence, Czechoslovakia, 


Exercises: 

Introduce Story Spine, show how a movie or common story maps onto it, Do Story spine in pairs or small groups, Color/Advance, I am a tree – focus on story,


Performance Games: 

Story, story die, Narrated stories, Fortunately/Unfortunately, Typewriter, Slow Mo Olympics, Pop up Story Book.  


Week 8:

Space work

The goal for this week:

  • Introduce the concept of using space work to show what you are doing.

  • Show how slowing down and making it precise creates a stronger picture.


Games and Exercises to try this week:

Warm up: Stretch and Warm up more than usual. House Creature Flood, Morphing Objects, Monkey doing _______ (everyone becomes a monkey doing it and repeats Monkey blanking blank), Kitty Cat Careers.


Exercises: 

Defining Feature - mime an object or location, the audience raises their hand when they think they know what it is, then you answer all together.

Teach how to do space work: Bring in actual physical props for them to hold.  A cup, a pencil, a cell phone, a steering wheel (most of these kids don’t know what it feels like to hold a steering wheel) Have them hold the object then take it away and have them retain their hand shape. Same for opening doors or other common things you have available to you. Teach them to retain the tension in their hands when holding an object, and to pop on and off.  

Walk through a space.  You define the space, the children walk through one at a time. Each child interacts with something in the space, and whatever the last person interacted with. The first child goes again at the end.  


Performance Games: 30 seconds of silence, What are you doing? and/or Top that, Slide Show, Short scenes in very familiar environments (the dinner table, the car, the kitchen, etc.), Machines, Foly Artist, Slow Mo Olympics, Samurai sword fight, Dance Dimond into Dance Party, Use the stage lights to create different effects and turn on some fun music for an ending dance party.  


Week 9:

Rhythm and Music

The goal for this week: 

  • Introduce the kids to Rhythm as a way to talk about timing. 

  • Help the kids see a flow to a game or scene. 


Warm up: 

Bunny Bunny, Electric Company, Rum-tum-tum, Beastie Rap, or Up My Nose - Rhyming games are very hard for kids under the age of 10. 


Exercises:  

Create a song - each person does one part of the music, beat, melody, hi hat, etc, one at a time around the circle until everyone is part of the music, then we take them out one by one. 

Bring in paper and markers/crayons - let instrumental music play while they draw. The first drawing should be just whatever they feel. Then draw as if the crayon were a dancer dancing on the page, then draw the way the music makes them feel.  

Turn on different songs and have the kids come up with characters that would listen to that music - walk around with that, then give their motto. 


Listen to different music and have them come forward and give their answering machine message as that character. 

Have them do scenes and change their mood based on the music playing.  


Performance Games:

Da Do Run Run or Beasty Rap, Devised Poetry - First sets up a rhyme, the next finishes it and sets up the next one.  Eye contact with Music.  Interpretive Dance. 


Week 10:

Start to work on the Showcase

The goal for this week: 

  •  Figure out what games from the semester they like and will do well at. 

  • Start polishing them, making sure everyone knows how to play 


Warm ups: 

Play their favorite Warm ups


Other possible performance games: Alphabet Games, Touch talk, Foreign Film, Freeze, World’s Worst, 185, Actor's Nightmare, String the Pearls, New Choice, Emotional Noise, Twin Pillars, Town Hall, Blind Line, Speak in one voice, Hesitation Debate, Category Die. 



Week 11:

Dress Rehearsal


The goal for this week: 


  • Show the kids how to do transitions, entrances, exits, and furniture movement on stage in a professional way. 

  • Alleviate some nerves by practicing the show. 


Run them through the show order, including what will happen before the show and how to come on stage, etc. You should also practice moving furniture and getting on and off stage after each scene, how to behave when in the wings. 

Practice coming on and off for scenes/games, but don’t do the actual games you will play. You don’t want them to start scripting their scenes ahead of time. 

After you’ve done this you can play games that you might play in the showcase or other fun games that they love. 



Week 12:

The showcase

The goal for this week: 

  • The primary purpose is for the kids to get experience on stage with an audience. 

  • Building Confidence - the showcase will validate all of their work throughout the semester.

  • To show off for their parents. This is a moment to let the kids shine! 


Play to the strengths of each kid and what they like. Cast all the games and scenes beforehand so you know each kid will get the best possible opportunity to shine.

If they’ve made up a game, go ahead and throw it into the show.  It will be fun for everyone to see what they came up with.

Make sure the showcase is as professional and polished as possible. If you need helpers you can recruit from the parents or older children in other classes. 

Most of all, have fun! 


Week 13:

Wrap up

The goal this week: 

  • To integrate all they have learned

  • To have a fun last class to facilitate friendships and joy for the class. 


Go over the showcase: What did they like about the show, what did they not? Keep this as positive as possible. They can say things they liked about other kids and they can say things they, themselves would like to improv on. But they shouldn’t give negative notes to other kids.


Go over the class as a whole: What did they like about the class?  What would they want more of? Less of? What did they learn? 


Friends connection: Have pieces of paper available and let the kids exchange emails, phone numbers, etc. 


Finally, let each child choose a game that they really wanted to play. Everyone gets a turn to do their favorite game. 


If you still have time, end with a dance party. 

 

©2019 by Jessica Arjet