If you are a frequent reader of our blog, you know that we believe in the power of collaborative learning. We recently held an improv workshop for our students, and saw that these strategies were highly effective in building emotional intelligence, as well!
Improv-ing social skills
Improvisational theatre is inherently social: it requires communication between and interaction among all participants, and for many gifted learners, it can provide an opportunity to build and practice social skills in a safe, small-group setting.
Improv is all about collaboration — everyone participates in developing the characters and plot of the story. While students may feel some hesitation or anxiety in the beginning, improv is done in a supremely supportive environment, where the objective is to give, and to make your friends look better. The first rule of improv — pretty much the only rule, really — is that participants cannot join a scene in progress and say, “No, we’re not doing that; do this, instead.” Rather, participants must join with an attitude of “Yes, and…,” which sounds quite simple, but can actually be quite a paradigm shift: instead of judging how the other participants are doing, each student must accept what is already underway and jump in to help direct its path. They can only add their own input, not remove or critique anyone else’s. This kind of positive, constructive attitude towards working with others can spill over into classroom work, allowing students to value others’ contributions and change their perspective to one emphasizing true teamwork.
Most importantly, an improv workshop is fun. Interacting with others, in an environment where humor and unexpected turns are guaranteed, can help your child carry that confidence into other social situations and feel more comfortable. Better yet, creative and even off-the-wall contributions may genuinely impress and excite the other members of the ensemble!
The performance aspect of improv theatre games also builds your child’s confidence regarding participation in group settings, and may also help them to better regulate their own behavior when they are not in control.
Turning failure into success
Accepting failure is often a tough lesson for gifted students, who often demand perfection of themselves (and others, sometimes). In an improv class, your child will learn to react quickly to make choices and make it work, no matter the situation! Perceived flubs and failures melt away in a setting in which “there are no wrong answers.”
Spontaneity reigns, and improv activities help your gifted learner to relax despite not being in control of the outcome of a situation. Learning how to react to other situations that may not be in their control — and remembering the feeling of experiencing success when the unexpected does happen — is an important life skill.
While improv can seem fast-paced when you are attending a performance, as a performer, gifted learners will actually experience the exercise as a need to slow down their active minds and focus. They must practice active listening, leaning on the other characters and the direction that the story is taking. Their speech may even slow down as they share their ideas to help build and inspire the plot of the story.
The Enrichment Center at The Grayson School offers weekend and summer camp programs for gifted learners in the greater Philadelphia region. Improv is one of our favorite classes in rotation — see what we are offering now!