Instructional Aids


Teaching Improvisation

  1. Define improvisation and objective.
  2. Begin with pantomime improvisation. Without speaking, select a student and get him/her to play catch. When finished ask the students what the objective was and whether or not it was accomplished.
  3. Present the rules for improvisation.
    1. Do not deny a fact
    2. Listen to other players.
    3. Use different methods to get what you want
    4. Want your objective NOW
  4. Model an improvisation with a student saying “no.” (share food)
  5. Discuss different methods for achieving objectives.
  6. Partners: one has a jacket or watch that the other wants to borrow. Brainstorm reasons for needing the object and methods for getting it.
  7. Switch and add a layer. Player with the object is reading a book.
  8. Model an improvisation with a student in which each player had an objective (siblings clean room, watch different TV shows).
  9. Stop the improvisations, give players 30 seconds to find a conclusion, share conclusions.

This technique requires practice but works in a wide variety of situations and provides authentic situations in which English language learners can practice speaking in a focused and non-threatening manner.


  • Focus on scene; listen to partner
  • Heard & understood
  • Clearly seen by audience

Teaching Pantomime

  1. Demonstrate a few common small objects such as a ball, book, hat, food.
  2. Ask students to copy.
  3. Set up a system for finding, using and replacing an “object” such as in a bag, box, or pocket.
  4. Model the procedure stressing that students are naming the thing/object/noun not the action/verb. The two objects I like to model are a hairbrush and a microphone.
  5. Player finding the object may not speak. Player removes an object, uses it, replaces it. Other players in the group may speak and name the object. Bag or box is passed around the circle.
  6. Players may not repeat an object used by another.
  7. After three or four times around the circle, collect the bags, etc.
  8. Give a pantomime quiz. Do not remind the students not to talk; they will realize it themselves after a few noisy starts. Questions may include:
  9. What grade are you in?
    1. How old are you?
    2. How many brothers and sisters do you have?
    3. How many pets do you have?
    4. What is your favorite food?
    5. What is your favorite sport to watch? To do?
    6. What is your favorite type of book?
    7. What is your favorite animal that could be a pet?
    8. What is your favorite animal at the zoo?
    9. What is your favorite musical instrument?
    10. What is your favorite type of music?
    11. What is your favorite thing to do when you can do whatever you want?

Your students now understand silent communication and can use this technique in unlimited connections to any subject matter. The benefits to you are that there is no noise and no clean up.


  • Use no voice (sound)
  • Focus on imaginary object(s)
  • Seen clearly by audience

Teaching Tableau

  1. Using a familiar story, such as “The Three Little Pigs,” ask a volunteer to become the door of the house. Ask three more to go inside the house and look scared. Ask one more to be outside the house trying to get in. All players freeze with exaggerated expressions.
  2. Ask the audience members to close their eyes. Move the players so that the door is broken, the wolf is inside the house, and the pigs are hiding behind one another.
  3. Ask the audience members to open their eyes and tell what happened in the story.
  4. Players go back to position one, audience closes eyes. This time the door becomes stronger, the pigs are happy, and the wolf is gone. Audience opens eyes and tells what happened in the story this time.
  5. Then select a setting (desert or forest work well) and build it as a tableau. One player enters the acting area and becomes an object (avoid animals and people). The next one to enter may not become the same object as the first and so on.
  6. When the setting is established, the remainder of the players make a sound collage to complete the effect.
  7. Have players leave the tableau one at a time, telling the audience what object they were portraying.

This technique is an effective storytelling vehicle and provides a way to assimilate student learning quickly.


  • No movement; frozen
  • Focus on scene
  • Different levels & positions
  • Shows clear expression & can be seen by audience

Teaching Machine

  1. Ask students to name various machines they see in the room.
  2. Establish that movement of machines is mechanical, repetitive and often stationery.
  3. Model a sound and movement that could be part of a machine. Have a student take over the sound and movement so you can coach others.
  4. Send volunteers to add on to the machine without touching one another. Each player establishes an original movement and sound but keeps the same rhythm as the first.
  5. Coach students to sit on the floor, move farther from or closer to the audience, face different directions, etc.
  6. Once the machine is established, add conditions such as the machine is happy, sad, confused, excited, etc.
  7. Freeze the players and ask the audience questions such as:
    1. Which player(s) are on a lower level?
    2. Which player is closest to the audience?
    3. Which player(s) are not facing the audience directly?
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 several times until students are comfortable and understand variety.

This can be used solely as a cooperative activity or to create a specific type of machine.


  • Work together
  • Individual sound & movement
  • Different levels & shapes
  • Shows clear expression

Teaching Gibberish

  1. Model gibberish as random sounds.
  2. Create a series of four or five sounds and say them several ways: as a statement, question, exclamation, command, etc.
  3. Players repeat and/or figure out the type of sentence.Give some directions (stand up, close the door, etc.) using gibberish. Continue until players react.
  4. Obviously gesture and facial expression are essential.
  5. Working with a partner, one player describes something (a sport) in gibberish while the other listens.
  6. Then the listening player describes something else (making pizza) in gibberish while the other listens.This clearly demonstrates that communication extends beyond language

Storytelling Techniques

  1. Selecting the story
    • length appropriate for audience
    • subject of interest to audience
    • storyteller MUST like the story
  2. Placing the audience
    • comfort level of listener important
    • audience should feel like cohesive group
    • performance space must be designated
  3. Eye contact
    • look directly at audience
    • place characters during dialogue portions
  4. Handling the “script”
    • memorize the story
    • put the story on a lectern or table
    • make sure the reader’s face can be seen clearly
  5. Vocal Techniques
    • teller must be heard and understood
    • change voice for each character
    • vary pitch, volume, rate for emphasis and mood
    • pausing is VERY effective
  6. Characterization
    • change voice for each character
    • change body for each character
    • give each character a place to focus
  7. Physicalization
    • indicate characters physically
    • use pantomime
    • include movement when possible
  8. Audience Participation
    • entire group or selected members
    • physical or verbal
    • rehearsed or improvised
  9. Dividing the Responsibility
    • allow audience participants some creativity
  10. Costumes and Props
    • keep them simple
    • help add variety
    • can assist with cultural or historical context

The Creative Process for Theater

Elementary School Level

GOAL: To enable students to make independent, original choices while responding to a variety of stimuli.

To accomplish this goal, students need:

  • To feel safe
  • Time to explore
  • Encouragement to make individual choices and act upon them
  • To enjoy the experience internally not from external praise

The process of participating in Theatre Activities will:

  • Stimulate creative thinking
  • Encourage cooperation
  • Provide opportunities for improvisation (action/reaction)

Methods for conducting Creative Dramatics Activities include:

  • No audience
  • Guide rather than direct
  • Set specific rules
  • Comments and suggestions focus attention while remaining nonjudgmental; no wrong creative choices
  • Provide as little “modeling” as possible; students are to discover their own ways of responding
  • Keep everyone involved as much as possible in a variety of ways:
    • Entire group
    • Individual and simultaneous activities
    • Partnering
    • Small groups

For an effective experience, provide:

  • Specific goals
  • Open space
  • Shared group experiences with all participating; very little watching as an audience
  • Activities that keep students focused and involved
  • Guidelines and boundaries that will cause students to develop self control and discipline

NOTE: Teachers may have to alter their traditional thinking and methods to conduct this type of activity. There should be NO manipulation (even positive) of creative responses. Students should not be seeking validation or approval while being creative.

Examples of what to say:

  • Thank you for listening.
  • You are following directions well.
  • Your voice was loud and clear.
  • You’re using details well, such as (give specific examples for use no names).
  • Stay in your own space
  • Speak so you can be heard
  • I believe what you are doing
  • Stay focused on your own actions
  • Try to find more ways of…(whatever they are doing).

Examples of what not to say:

  • That’s not the way to be a tree.
  • Don’t smile when you look hungry.
  • I like the way (specific name) is moving; that’s right.
  • Don’t say it like that; you should say…
  • Everyone look at (specific name); that’s good