Improv in Spanish class

I really enjoy watching improv. Our school has an improv group that performs twice a year. Every time I see games that might work in my classroom. Here are 2 examples of improv games that my students like. I have used these with 4th grade and up.

Director’s Cut

1) Choose a story/poem, or it could be a scene from a novel you are reading. It needs to be long enough to be interesting but short enough not to be overwhelming. Teach/Review it to your students by reading it together/asking PQA/ acting it out etc. For example,

juanita-y-los-tres-gatitas-001

2) This works really well if there are certain movements or sounds that follow certain parts. For example, in the story above you might add…

juanita-y-los-tres-gatitas-002

2) NOW FOR THE FUN! After students have a feel for the text have them tell the story again but this time have the actors replay the scene with different emotions, characters, roles.. Possible themes:

  • Sing the story
  • Fast as you can
  • Very slowly
  • Like babies
  • Dancing (Interpretive Movement)
  • Spanish soap opera (SUPER dramatic)
  • Super Macho
  • Familiar Characters from pop culture or a class story
  • Whispering
  • Old people that can’t hear

 

Beginning, Middle, & End

1) Divide your class into 3 groups.

GROUP #1 Individually, each student writes a sentence that has to be the beginning of a story (in the target language). “There is a chicken. His name is Hidalgo.” “There once was an ugly princess.” “Once upon a time in the land of toasters, there lived an old piece of toast.”

GROUP # 2 Each student writes a sentence that would fit in the middle of a story (in the target language).   “Then he sits down and cries for 3 years.” “Suddenly, she sees Justin Bieber.” “The dragon was so angry that he spit fire into the sky”

GROUP # 3 Each student writes a sentence would be at the end of a story (in the target language).  “The king never ate pizza again.” “She was very happy and danced home.” “And that’s how Stella got her groove back.”

You can do the next part together as a class or in small groups.

  1. Put all the strips into piles of BEGINNING, MIDDLE and END.
  2. As a class, or in small groups, picks one sentence from each pile.
  3. Next, they have to work together to fill in the story around those three sentences and make all three sentences fit into ONE story.
  4. Finally, groups present by reading their three sentences first and then their story.

During step 3, students can have about 10 minutes to work together and write the story down on a piece of paper to present, or…in true improv form, they have to perform the story in front of the class on the spot (courageous and advanced language students only).

The boy who can’t catch- 1st grade story

I am rethinking my K-2 curriculum to focus more on Terry Waltz’s SUPER SEVEN. One of the verbs I wanted to include was “PUEDE” I used this story in 1st and 2nd grade as a part of our SPORTS unit.

I broke the story down into 2 parts.

PART ONE: There is a boy who likes baseball. He wants to play baseball. He goes to a baseball expert. He throws the ball and the expert catches the ball. The expert throws the ball but the boy does not catch it. The boy can’t catch. He is sad.

PART TWO: The boy can’t catch. The expert tells him to practice. The expert and the boy practice a lot. But the boy cannot catch. The expert has an idea. The expert tells him to use his mouth. The expert throws the ball. The boy catches ball with his mouth. The boy can catch with his mouth.  Now the boy plays professional baseball for the Atlanta Braves.

This is a basic script that I had in mind but the details were up to the class. What is the boy’s name? How many times did he throw? Who is the expert? (Usually the baseball fanatic in the class) And of course, (the most fun) what body part he catches with?

Here is a drawing one of my 1st graders did after the story.

 SCAN0175

**My 1st graders loved this story! They were engaged and invested in the story. We acted it out with an invisible ball and the class got to participate too. I used Karen Rowen’s “All the World’s a Stage” so that all the students got to pretend to miss the catch and then pretend to catch the ball with their mouth. When the boy finally caught the ball everyone cheered and was so excited.

The invisible ball

So when I really start losing my students I stop and have everyone stand up. (Brain Break!) I hold out my hands as if I am holding a ball. I describe the ball. I go to other students and have them look at the ball. They tell me if they like it or not. If they don’t like it I may cry or get angry. If they like it I might dance or jump and have them do it with me. Then I call on someone, and I throw them the ball. Then they choose to throw the ball to someone else. I have the students throw and catch the ball anyway they want. Along the way I narrate in the target language-

Asa has the ball. He looks for someone. He sees Brennan. Asa, are you throwing it fast or slow? Asa throws the ball fast to Brennan. Brennan catches it! Brennan has the ball. He looks at the ball. He is looking for someone. He sees Anna…etc.

When I am ready to move on to the next activity then I have the last person “keep” the ball. They can put it in their pocket or just hold it. If class isn’t over then I may check in with them throughout the next activity to make sure they still have it. I make a big production of becoming frantic if the student can’t “find it.” Then when I am ready to play again I have that person start.

Adaptations

  • I can make this an quick activity or if my students are into it then I keep it going. My goal is for them to listen to my narration so if they stop listening, I stop playing. Sometimes I delay the actions just so students remember that they are responding to my narration not just what they think will happen next.
  • I could have a student pretend to have something in his hands. The student has to describe it to the class by answering my questions. Then we can throw/pass to another student.
  • I use “la pelota” because I was doing it as a part of a Sports Unit. But I could use other things too. Anything that can be thrown or passed to other students. Lots of options to match the vocabulary I am targeting. For example, something breakable to get repetitions of “Did it break?” “Oh no it broke.”
  • I make the ball invisible for multiple reasons. First, it adds a little magic into the class. It is fun to pretend. Second, I am not athletic and not all my students are either. The students decide if they catch the ball or throw it super fast. Third, I prefer not to break anything in my room.
  • I have used this with my 1st and 2nd graders but I think it could be used in older grades.