I'm a tree

I love Improv drama.  It is such a great way to let kids who are shy jump out of their shells.  In an ESL classroom, it gives a voice to the ones who might not be heard and a chance to practice real grammatical structures that emerge naturally out of situations, rather that being forced (imagine you are at an airport and you are trying to ....zzzzzz).

I have several kids who are doing very well with Improv this year.  They have grown more confident, and more socially aware.  They are also developing creativity and learning to think on their feet.  The kids love our weekly improv session (usually Friday afternoon, good way to end the week!).  I try and guide them through some general rules and principles of improv, introduce a game or an activity, and then stand back and let them self organize.  Sometime the game goes great, other times, it falls flat on its face.  However, that is true of improv in general!

This is a topic I hope to write much more about in the future.

Here are some games and simple ways to use them with ESL students.

I'm painting a house with my cat

Introduce a simple grammatical structure.  For example, I am _____ing with a _______.
Have the students stand in a line and have one person on stage.  The person on stages starts doing a repetitive gesture.  The first person in line walks up to the person doing the gesture and asks "what are you doing?".  The person doing the action explains their gesture (I am painting a house with a cat) and then walks to the back of the line.  Repeat and repeat.

This gives the ESL kids a chance to practice a specific structure.  It is also non-threatening, since they have plenty of time to think of what they are going to while in line.

Press Conference

This is a great one for developing questioning skills.  One person is holding a press conference.  The rest of the class are the reporters, except only the reporters know what the press conference is about.  Their job is to ask questions that reveal information, but not too much information.  The person hosting the press conference has to guess what is going on.

I am a Tree

This is another simple english game that is very physical.  Think of it as creating a painting.  In groups of 6-10, they stand in a circle.  One person walks into the middle and puts their hands up and says "I am a tree".  The next person adds to the painting, but adding something new.  "I am sleeping under the tree."  After a couple of rounds and the ideas start to get thinner, it gets very silly!  It is a great way to think of creative ways to use language in a real life rapid fire style of conversation.  The key here is SPEED.  Do it fast.  Think fast.  Move fast.