Improvised Workshops--why I don't believe in a manual

"A 'how to do it' procedure will become apparent with the use of the material.  Yet, no system should be a system.  We must tread carefully if we are not to defeat our aims.  How can we have a 'planned' way of action while trying to find a 'free' way?"
- Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater, p. 18

In this textbook-heavy world of teaching, I have often been asked for a manual--a list--of what to do and in what order.  However, my goal is to be improvisational in my coaching--of students and of teachers.  It would be entirely hypocritical to be encouraging folks to be engaging "in the moment", to "do what comes next" while marching along a step-by-step, entirely predetermined plan.

Does this mean I am suggesting walking into a session as an unprepared facilitator?  Quite the opposite, in fact.  If my goal is to help participants (and myself) to be intuitive, then I must first identify a set of potential goals for the workshop.  (For example--character development or narrative structure or conflict or listening...).  I then brainstorm possible games for general warm-ups and skill-building warm-ups, followed by games and activities to support the workshop's focus/goal.

During the workshop, I listen and watch like a hawk!  In the spirit of Yetta Goodman's "kidwatching", I notice what emerges in the needs of individuals and the group.  While I'm ready to adjust the workshop's focus if needed, I also have a number of different directions I can follow if we begin to head down a given path. 
Rather than seeing instructional design as a single channel, I prefer to envision a braided stream.  (Hello--science integration!)  The needs and energy of a group may adjust our direction, but I am still here to guide the ultimate path of the workshop. 

I'll follow up with specific examples later this week.  I'll be guest teaching/ coaching at two schools in Santa Rosa--in one fifth-grade classroom and in one second-grade classroom.  I can't wait to report back!

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