"So...how do all of these principles connect to curriculum?"
"If I'm not a Theater Arts teacher, can I really use improv in my classroom?"
I find ways to connect improvisational theatre to content every day. You'll find ways you didn't plan for when you began this little journey. When you do, tell me about them!
One clear link is in understanding character. As we create and develop characters in scenes, we are better prepared for developing complex characters in our writing and analyzing them in literature. We can also apply the Principles of Improv to literary analysis.
This week, I asked my 7th- and 8th-graders to identify one Principle of Improv they thought best represented the protagonist of their book. Of course, some entirely forgot about this requirement when they set out to write their letter in their reading journals. However, about 2/3 of the students in my class were able to articulate their understanding of a character in new, interesting ways. Here are a couple of examples:
About Ender's Game:
"If I had to pick which improv thing (sorry I forgot what it was called!) best represented Ender, it would probably be Listen, because Ender tends to be a very quiet person. But that doesn't mean he doesn't think very carefully about what has just been said."
About The Red Badge of Courage:
"I think the principle of improv that best represents the youth is 'commit!' I think this because in the first battle he has trouble committing to putting his life on the line. In the second battle he comes back with perseverance and determination to stay and commit to this war.
As I was thinking about the principles of improv tying into the youth's life, I thought that so many of them showed up as a struggle (with) the youth's experience in war. For instance, 'Make Your Partner Look Good' is a crucial part to war because you do need to stay with your comrades and have their backs so that they don't get hurt.
I also think 'Yes, and...' is crucial for two parts: The first being what his officials tell him to do. He has to accept it and not do his own thing (agenda) because he could affect his batallion..."
To process these observations, I write back to my students in their reading journals--asking questions and offering my own ideas. I'd like to bring it back to the whole class and share out what we've noticed with characters embodying these principles. How have these principles supported them in their growth throughout the book? Can these principles be taken too far--be problematic, immoral, even? So many things to discuss...off to teaching!