Improvisation for English Learners: Our First Encounter

What great groups we had at the open classes for Spontaneous Speaking: English through improvisation this month!  Your energy and enthusiasm and willingness to do the activities made it a great success, not to mention a lot of fun.

A lot of the participants had seen improv in Spanish before because it has a huge following in Spain and is very popular.  Watching (and even participating in) a show, you see players making up scenes and situations without any text, only the suggestions that the audience provides.  Everything is done ad lib and on the spot.  Everything is new, different and unexpected.

We went over what improvisation is, talking about its birthplace and home in Chicago and the famous actors from the improv schools there.  Now, our goals here at the Institute were a little more modest: to use our English in spontaneous, varied situations that we create and shape through a variety of improv games.

What´s it all about then?  Besides inventing everything–the people, the places, the dialogue, the situation–we say the first thing that comes to our minds!  It is just like a situation in our everyday lives, only it has the potential to be a little more crazy and zany at times.  When you meet someone in the street, when you go to the bank, when you wrestle a lion, there is no time to prepare–you improvise!

Another feature of improvisation is that you accept what your partners have to offer, always validating their ideas and contributions. This makes everyone look good, which is another golden rule of improvisation.  You then add another element or idea yourself to keep the scene moving along to who knows where!

The idea of our English improv sessions is to use the “games” of improvisation in conjunction with elements of English such as pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary and grammar review.  We incorporate work on many levels from single sounds that are problematic for Spanish speakers to simple phrases to more complex dialogues, depending on the level of the participants.  Trust me, it works wonderfully for even our intrepid beginners!

With such a wonderful response, we hope to open up classes again in the fall for two different levels, so keep your eyes on the IIE social media.  Thank you so much for coming and welcome to the fun and wacky world of improvisation!

Sessions taught and text written by Carrie Szczerbik