As I prepare for my first “Movement and Active Learning” conference I reflect on the 9-year journey with this work. It all began when my late sister, then head of education and writing at The Second City Training Center in Chicago suggested that improv exercises could be used as teaching tools for students. I jumped at her suggestion and after piloting a workshop or two with teachers, we knew that her hunch was right.
The teachers who participated in those early “fact-finding” improv workshops helped my sister and me to understand just how far reaching Viola Spolin games like Zip-Zap-Zop or One Word Story could develop content knowledge and literacy skills. Rob Chambers, the President of The Second City Training Center, supported and encouraged our work as we discovered the deep connections between improvisation and learning. We found:
- Students loved the movement and creativity when they participated in improv activities
- Teachers found limitless connections between learning and improv. This is still very true today when I conduct workshops and present at conferences on this work.
- Students with special needs fully participate and improv builds inclusive classrooms.
- Improv develops literacy skills in vocabulary, sequencing, inferencing, and reflective analysis of text.
There are more connections but I think that these are the most important. When I present at conferences and schools (most recently at the Association for Middle Level Education and Chicago Shakespeare Teacher Workshops), educators respond with tremendous enthusiasm and share that the activities are easy to implement.