ABC Improv



This lesson was adapted from a middle school lesson plan to work with 5th grade. It involved teaching students how to write a script through the use of improv. The ABC game and sheet was used to help guide the lesson. The lesson can be adapted to a variety of curricular topics. The topic used in this particular unit was explorers because 5th graders were studying them and had the back ground information needed to make it lesson a success. The lesson meets the following 5th grade CO standards:

Reading, Writing, and Communicating
3. Writing and Composition
1. The recursive writing process contributes to the creative and unique literary genres for a variety of audiences and purposes

Social Studies
1. History
2. The historical eras, individuals, groups, ideas, and themes in North America from 1491 through the founding of the United States government

Drama and Theatre Arts
1. Create
The creation of drama and theatre is a demonstration of learned skills in forming new theatrical works, interpreting theatrical works for performance and design, and developing characters and analyzing roles.

This Workshop Session was tagged in Theatre

Overview and Context

5th Grade class with 29 students, 15 boys and 14 girls.  The school is a suburban school in a large district.  The students were confortable with drama as they see the drama teacher for an hour a week.  The student population is partially ELL students. This lesson was adapted to work with 5th graders by giving them the abc script sheet.  

Process and Protocols

Introduce students to the ABC improvisation exercise:  See attached power point

I. Through direct instruction have students verbally suggest character, setting and action for a model ABC improv.  Write answers on the board.  Example:  A is a pantomiming cleaning the kitchen, B is a kid who comes home late from school with muddy shoes and says “Sorry, Mom”.  Mom (A)  responds: “ Why are you late and what have you done/!”  B responds: “I said I was sorry- why do you hate me?!”  C enters and saves the day : “Hey family lets all go out for dinner tonight and talk about going to Disneyland!”

II.  Students are placed in trios to create their own ABC improvs.  One or two groups are chosen to share.  Then students go back to their social studies journals and choose an entry about a character or situation they could use to create an ABC improv.  Trios create content centered ABC’s.  Christopher Columbus is A and  pantomimes mapping the area; B enters- a native American scout and shares “There is trouble ahead sir.”  Etc…..  Groups share.

III.  Trios now create a longer script by using a more fleshed out worksheet version of the ABC format.

Students exit class sharing their favorite line composed on the worksheet.

Tools and Artifacts

Power point overhead which contains ABC formatting.  You could also use a chalkboard or white board and write it out by hand in order to focus direct instruction and work with the entire class in creating a sample ABC improv structure on the board.

ABC Worksheet- for students to work independently but all be focused on sequential tasks.

Workshop Session Files

Workshop Session Images

Reflections and Discoveries


How would you describe your first impressions of this lesson?

I thought that the lesson was very interactive and gave students the chance to be creative.  

If you could do this activity again, what would you do differently?

Even with having the abc script, the students struggled more than I thought with the writing their ideas down and all agreeing on the subject and topic.  

What are the strengths of the lesson?

The strengths of this lesson include the ability for students to work independently but be focused on sequential tasks.  There is a good feeling of organized chaos in the drama/social studies/or language arts classroom. 

What is necessary for the lesson to be a success?

For students to connect this to a specific class context students need to be pretty far along in their study of that unit.  Without depth of knowledge into historical characters there is a risk that students will create scenes that do not flesh out the historical background but instead invent scenarios that are false.  The class that was used was confortable with drama and improv and could jump in easily.  Other classes may need additional warm up activities to become confortable. 

What were the reflections of the students?

Students enjoyed the lesson.  Although there was a bit of “organized chaos”, they found it engaging and liked the fact that the warm up activity let them be creative and “do anything”.  They found the most challenging part to be agreeing on an idea to put on the abc script and not having enough time to do it.  They liked the idea of using improve to show what they had learned about explorers. 

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