Parts of a Whole
From The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom. Katherine McKnight and Mary Scruggs, Jossey-Bass, 2008
In this exercise, students work together to create a variety of locations, objects, animals, machines, or anything else they can dream up.
Skills are developed in listening, team building, self - awareness, self-confidence, critical and creative problem solving, and idea generation.
· Invite six to ten students into a back line.
· The teacher and the audience select something to create.
· One student steps out of the back line and announces what part of the whole he will become.
· The student becomes that part with his whole body.
· The next student steps out and announces what part she will become.
· She adds onto the whole by becoming her part.
· The exercise continues until all students have stepped out of the back line.
· Optional add-ons:
o Brainstorm the parts of the whole before the exercise begins. This is particularly helpful for English language learners and younger children. It aids in vocabulary building and conceptualization of the final object.
o Let the audience provide the parts; the students on stage simply embody them.
o Once the whole is completed, ask the students to put it into sound and motion (for example, a car revving up and moving forward, an elephant roaring and swinging its trunk, a tree rustling and swaying in the breeze, or other ideas).
Teacher: We need any kind of thing to create here. What do you want to see?
Audience member: A computer.
Teacher: OK, we’re going to make a computer.
Davis: I’m the computer.
Teacher: Which part?
Davis: The computer part.
Teacher: The monitor, where you see the picture?
Teacher: OK, Davis, be the monitor.
(Davis stands as the monitor, hands at sides.)
Teacher: What shape is that computer screen? Can you show us?
(Davis makes a square shape with his arms.)
Kara: I’m the keyboard.
(She sits on the floor and sticks her hands out, mimes typing.)
Teacher: Are you the keyboard, or the person typing at the keyboard?
Kara: Oh! I’m the keyboard.
(She lays down flat on the floor.)
Samara: I’ll be the mouse.
(She sits on the floor next to Kara.)
Jim: All the parts are taken, now.
Teacher: We have the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse; what else can be part of this computer?
(Students left on the back line are blank.)
Teacher: Can some of the parts have parts?
Jim: Oh! I ’ll be the screensaver!
(He stands behind the square Davis made with his arms and wiggles his hands.)
Teacher: Great! What else?
“Show us what that looks like!”
“What part is connected to what we already see?”
“What ’ s missing?”
It might take a while before students are comfortable physicalizing the parts.
As they grow more secure with the exercise and each other, they have more fun embodying the parts. Their work also becomes more specific.
If students are really struggling with the concept of physicalizing the parts, jump in and model physicalization for them; then step out and let them do it for themselves.