Our interactions with other people are constantly creating and reinforcing neural
|Workshop design and facilitation by|
Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, CGP, MT
How creative experiences and improvisation strengthen social-emotional skills
Creative/experiential methods integrate the emotional, cognitive, social, and imaginative dimensions of experience and are the most direct approach to developing social-emotional skills. At the same time, they can be used to communicate about and explore data and content in ways that deepen learning. The games and exercises used in Applied Improvisation emphasize positive emotional connections among people in a group. The rules and structures are designed to promote a space of psychological safety and mutual support. Skills and information learned in a positive emotional atmosphere are more likely to be available when under stress in real-life situations.
Applied Improvisation is the experience of real-time social-emotional learning - which is defined by the Collaborative For Academic, Social and Emotional Learning as "the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions." The games and exercises used in Applied Improvisation accomplish several objectives that research shows align with the development of social-emotional competencies. “Experiences generate emotions, which bring relevancy and meaning to students, according to Eric Jensen of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. "Teaching tied to positive emotional experiences will lead students to generate new thought and motivation to learn. Although lecturing continues to be the most widely employed method in classrooms across the country, research on the way we learn indicates that lecturing is not always very effective."
Name Game -
Learn the names of group members and enhance the capacity to remember them;
Practice the basic rule of improvisation - the yes...and through simple repetition;
Provide a template for social-emotional engagement;
Develop a positive atmosphere of mutual acceptance in the group;
Each participant says his/her name with an adjective that starts with the first letter of the name and a movement, e.g. "Jacked-up Jude." "Phoenix-Rising Phoebe." Each player says their name with adjective and movement, then the group echoes it back. After each player in turn has done this, a quick repeat round is done to help remember the names, adjectives and movements. Then Player 1 will say his/her name/adjective/movement followed by the name/adjective/movement of another player, who repeats their own and passes the play along to another person in the group, e.g.
Steve:: "Strong Steve" Phoenix-Rising Phoebe:
Phoebe: "Phoenix-Rising Phoebe Marvelous Martha"
Martha: "Marvelous Martha Sweet Sue"
This continues and gradually picks up speed.
To conclude, the group says everyone's name in unison, going around the circle.
Call "freak out" and everyone runs around screaming and finds a new place in the circle.
The group then says everyone's name out loud together, going around the newly formed circle.
Pass The Movement/Sound
Practice receiving what others say and do without judgment- an improv rule
Experience simple give-and-take among group members
Lay the groundwork for unconditional support through active participation
Get out of the intellect and respond to others with physicality and positive energy;
The leader starts a simple movement and accompanying sound, and "passes" it to the player to the right. This person then "passes" the movement and accompanying sound the next person in the circle by repeating it as closely as possible. There will be variations in the way players repeat the movement and sound, so it will change as it goes around the circle. What is most important is for each player to receive it fully and pass it along with commitment Eye contact helps.
Then add the following variation:
Slo-Mo - the player passing the movement/sound can call "Slo-Mo" and pass it along in slow motion, which continues around the circle until someone calls "Regular Mo."
"Fast-Mo" is another option.
This is a warm-up to initiating in group interactions, shifting gears, simple experience of "yes...and" which is to accept what is offered and build on it in some small way.
Take the idea of initiating and "grabbing focus" into practice in the group;
Demonstrate the positivity toward one another that is essential to improvisation - and to social-emotional learning goals;
Play with the concept of radical positivity that drives improvisation and social-emotional learning;
Group stands silently in in a circle, focusing on breathing slowly and meditatively. At random moments someone says the word "beat" at which point everyone rapidly turns and smiles broadly at that person. Then the group returns to looking ahead and breathing slowly. If two people say "beat" at the same time, the group waits to respond until 1 person goes.
Develop a story moment-to-moment;
Replace over-thinking and planning with moment-to-moment responsiveness;
Collaborate with others to create a story without planning or over-thinking;
Focus awareness on developing an idea or a story beat by beat;
Player A stands in the center of the circle and says "I am a tree." Next player adds something to the tree, e.g. "I am a bird in the tree," taking a pose that expresses this. Next player adds something to the scene, e.g. "I am a bird-watcher" striking a pose that suggests this. Next player adds something to expand the story, "I am the bird-watcher's binoculars," also striking a strong physical pose. The addition of new elements to the scene continues until the group feels the story is complete. The person who initiated the scene choose a player to remain, starting a new scene from the same pose they are holding, making that pose into something else entirely. Play continues from there, building stories beat by beat, players making strong poses that are then reframed into something new for each scene.