Friday, January 7, 2011

Spreading Their Wings

Moon Maiden, Warwick Goble, 1910 

Since 2002 I have directed a student storytelling program, The Story Explorers, at my local Elementary School. While choosing and learning their stories is paramount, each week there are also a few fun games/exercises to help them with improvisation, intonation, body language and more. Not only are the exercises designed to hone their storytelling skills but very subtly they increase their time in front of an audience, even if it just our core group for the moment.

While some students may be a bit reticent at the beginning of the program, each week more and more hands spring up, eager to spread their impro wings. I am always amazed at their creativity and the ideas that flow when faced with this storytelling challenge. This week we played an improvisation game I call Fabric Follies.


All you need is one yard of fabric. I actually use a small, lace tablecloth. The fabric should be large enough to use for different ideas the students have but not too large to hinder their movement.

The leader demonstrates by using the fabric in a new way then asks the students to guess what it is. The fabric is then passed to the person who answered correctly and they take their turn with a new idea. Students cannot repeat an idea already used. Here are some of the inventive and creative ideas the children came up with this week.

• Briar placed the cloth on the floor. Moving to the edge of the room she began to run towards it, plopped herself down and slid across the floor. Sledding in the snow!

• Mari placed the cloth on the floor as well but instead of laying it flat she took a minute to scrunch the cloth up lengthwise. No one was quite sure, including me, what she was doing. When she was finished she stood up, stepped on the cloth and began to mimic a surfer in the water. She was actually creating waves with the way she displayed the cloth on the floor, using the center as a surf board.

• Hannah wrapped it around her neck like a scarf then strutted across the room. Stopping now and again to smile, wave and silently mime some words as if she were speaking into a microphone. Can you guess? She was a superstar walking the red carpet!

Over the years that same cloth has been been a:

o Magic carpet
o Flag
o Picnic blanket
o Shower curtain
o Superman/Bullfighter’s cape
o Hula skirt
o Baby blanket
o Toga
o Cane
o Race car
o Baseball bat

I don’t claim to have invented this game but unfortunately I cannot remember where I read about it through the years, otherwise I would offer proper credit.

There are many improvisation games available on line, here are a few sites you may wish to view:

Improv Encylopedia - Categories from A - Z.
Drama Activities for the Classroom -
Friday Night Live -

Now go out and turn yourself into something brand new!