Educators! Improv in Classroom Great 4 Students & Teachers
By Walt Frasier, Artistic Director of EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH and co-founder of IMPROV 4 KIDS
Humor and creativity work in similar ways. By creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain. Humor guru, William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University
Improvisation involves one or more players performing a scene, telling a story, or singing a song without a script. The show starts and we just wing it, figuring WHO we are, WHERE we are, and WHAT we are doing. We work as a team. We often use the audience to inspire scenes. Everyone in the audience becomes part of the team. Everyone in the room has agency and takes pride in the show’s success.
When the teacher from Farmington, CT schools hired my troupe back in 2003, performing and teaching comedy to kids was not even on my radar. She offered to pay us for four shows, we offered to perform clean. It was a simple transaction and one of our first paid gigs as a troupe, still in our first year of formation. We were not even completely an improv show yet, performing lots of sketch and musical parody.
Improv 4 Kids was born. 5000+ shows and 10,000s of workshop hours later, we have become the authority on comedy shows and classes for k12 schools, camps and community centers. Since 2009 I have offered residencies in NYC and area schools. In 2011, I opened my comedy school in Times Square. This past summer I published two books in a new Improv 4 Kids series geared at inspiring creative writing, public speaking and self confidence in k12 students.
Improvisation Delivers What Schools Need Most
In many cases, the laughter supercedes all other benefits. Bringing laughter to a classroom improve test scores, according to research at Johns Hopkins. Laughter increases cardio pulmonary function, getting more oxygen to the brain. Laughter creates community, while reducing stress, depression and blood pressure. The laughter alone increases individual and team health. Laughter tears down walls of resentment, replacing with strong bonds of trust.
Improvisation develops self confidence. Our number one rule, “YES! And…,” creates a supportive environment. Our team embraces the philosophy of PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY, determined in the corporate world as the #1 factor in team success. Simply playing improv games in class creates supportive environment and builds confidence in individuals.
Back in 2015, a group of sophomores, in a Masterclass at our Times Square club, revealed to me they lacked Psychological Safety at school, home and in their community. Simply discussing the topic, and having an adult listen, allowed these students to open up, and then thrive in Improv. They marched out with new confidence to face their world.
It is our job as educators to create a safe space for our students, physically, mentally and emotionally. Improv addresses the latter two.
However, addressing confidence and self worth will also address the bullying behaviors. Insecurity and social anxiety leads to both bulky and victim behavior. Improv workshops teach community. Many see comedy as a form of bullying. We teach to make folks laugh without the mean edge.
Our #1 rule: HAVE FUN but never at another’s expense!
Improv combines so many skills it may sound overwhelming. But the beauty of Improvisation is the students are performing on day one. Improv delivers a lot but we don’t tell the students that much. We focus on playing games.
PLAY and STORY are the most effective ways to teach. Improv combines these two. While we focus on having fun, we sneak in language arts, cultural arts, life skills and wisdom.
Unlike traditional theater, everyone is a star and ensemble. Everyone participates equally. No aptitude for theater or music is required to play. And, because we have no scripts to memorize, we are performing in day one. Improv is 💯 application and practice of team, public speaking and focus skills.
Teachers and parents often see major changes in confidence and focus after just one class.
Improv is Social Emotional Learning
Improv teaches all that and more. We can teach teachers to us Improv in the classroom to develop your team of students.
Improv teaches empathy, listening with the whole body becoming self aware and more mindful of our thoughts. We become aware of our spacial relationships with people and things.
“YES! And…” is more than a governing tool, it is a way of life. Saying yes inspires hope and trust in others.
Improv teaches making better choices.
Improv teaches us to observe our world. While looking for creative inspiration we open our eyes to those around us. We become socially aware of our place in the greater world. We engage the world around us.
We create Psychological Safety.
Improv Teaches Language Arts
Improv is a cultural art, learning about theater and music, but while performing original scenes and stories, we are also engaged in creative writing.
Improv gets students excited to learn about story. We teach character, setting, and plot development. We create rich worlds in which to play.
In our warm ups, with games such as One Word Story, we teach grammar. We encourage projection and annunciation so our team can respond to our offers. Improv demands listening so we can be our best during our turn. Improv demands focus to keep story on point and to avoid distracting the team focus. In these simple games, the shy are brought out of their shells, while the anxious are brought into the team vibe.
Improv Creates Better Students in All Courses
Students that overcome stage freight, also become students willing to engage in the classroom. Improv students are more prone to be willing to read in class and participate in class discussions. These students absorb and retain information during the initial presentations, rather than cramming for tests.
We encourage students to study all areas. Great improv players engage knowledge of the arts, literature, history, contemporary events and the sciences to create character and story. Knowledge is power for improv too. The ability to talk on all subjects opens our story options infinitely.
Improv Makes Better Leaders
Without self confidence leaders make bad decisions. They fail to share necessary information, fearing social interactions.
Leaders need to be good listeners. Leaders need great presentation skills. Leaders need be great team players.
Storytelling is one of the most effective tools for a leader. Crafting a message engages your audience. Shaping the story avoids individual interpretation of facts that causes lack of team focus.
Improv teaches us to make better choices. We teach to make big choices. Go bold. If the mistakes does not work out, we learn. Wimpy choices allow us to squeak by, learning nothing. Lack of choices leads to others making choices for us.
Making student leaders great helps motivate the entries student body. Students more likely to listen to other students than adults.
Improv Makes Teachers Better Educators
We use these same games to teach corporate groups team building, leadership, sales and service. A teacher is responsible for all these things.
A teacher is part of a team. You have department planning meetings. You have to communicate with admin, parents and students. Creating an effective team with all these individuals betters your students and your own work (and your own Psychological Safety).
Teachers are leaders. Teachers are the most important leaders in society. Every year you have 100+ students to guide to success. Strong leadership skills are a must for teacher success.
Teachers are sales people. We have difficult students daily. Sure we can issue detention slips and send our problems elsewhere, or we can learn to convince a student to stay and benefit from our teaching. Effective sales techniques through Improv will make your job so much easier
Teachers are customer service reps for the school. Parent Teacher night is one example.
In all of the above, learning to better listen with your whole body (empathy), YES AND…. techniques, and story telling will make you a better teacher, make your staff a better team and make your students better learners.
Online Classes and Shows
Now we are thriving online, with public shows and classes, residencies, virtual field trips and professional development for teachers. Email for more information, dates and rates
- Thursday 8pm PG-13 LMAO Off-Broadway
- Saturday 8pm 17+ Absent Minded Comedy Uncensored
- Sunday 3pm Fun for the Whole Family! All ages welcome.
We are very excited to move to a subscription style service for online classes to maximize the value to our students and their parents. Get unlimited access to FOUR WEEKS of classes for just $125. Select the date/time of the first class you wish to attend. See below for current class offerings. Not ready to commit? You can sign up for ONE class for $25. FOUR classes for $75. ZOOM links sent after registration.
Walt Frasier, Artistic Director, Player, Piano, MC, Teacher, Founding Member of EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH since 2002. TV credits include Billions (CBS), Friends of the People (TruTV), Blue Bloods (CBS) Royal Pains (USA), Lilyhammer (NETFLIX),Naked Brothers Band (NICK), Fat Pants (Dr. Oz Promo), Late Night with David Letterman (9 eps), Hair Trauma (2 eps, WE).Walter is a New Yorker since 1997, but grew up in Maryland, getting his theatrical start in Washington DC area. If you have called to book a gig or groups sales you most likely talked with this guy. Walter has also performed internationally in theater, music and even Opera.
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