The improv game “The Next Chapter” is a fun full-class activity. It takes the traditional “Freeze” improv game and turns it on its head. In that game, small groups of students create an improvised scene, and when the teacher calls “freeze!” the next group of students creates a new scenario from the previous group’s frozen poses.
In “The Next Chapter,” the small groups still freeze when the teacher says to do so, but the next group of students picks up where the last story stops, creating a new improvised “chapter” with each subsequent group. The result is one long improvised story that can still take many creative turns, but maintains the characters throughout the process.
The learning goals for this improv game include developing teamwork skills and creative quick thinking skills. Additionally, this game challenges students to listen carefully and recall details from previous “chapters” to continue their scene and make it fit in with the overall story. Try it!
1. Have students get into pairs or groups of three.
2. Select one group to start.
3. For the first group, assign the students a relationship or specific roles. For example: scientists working on an experiment, Grandma babysitting her grandchild(ren), an exercise instructor and student(s).
4. Give the first group a setting to start: a lab, a gym, a shopping mall, a movie theatre, a playground. Make sure the whole class hears the role and location assignments clearly!
5. The first group will start their scene as the first chapter of the story.
6. When the scene comes to a natural pause or after a set amount of time (your decision), call out “freeze!” The group who is performing must freeze in whatever positions they happen to be in.
7. Have the next pair or group of students take over the roles in either a continuous or new setting, i.e. the next chapter of the story. The students must take the same position and roles that the previous students were in. From there, they can either continue the story as it was, or come up with a creative transition into the next scene with the same characters.
For example: The first chapter establishes Grandma babysitting her two grandchildren. Second chapter: eating lunch. Third chapter: going to the park. Fourth chapter: coming home for naps. Fifth chapter: baking cookies. And so on. The stories can be as mundane or fanciful as the students wish, as long as the story is continued in a way that makes sense.
8. Students must remember any details established in the prior scenes and continue them going forward. Going with the Grandma example, the kids will stay kids and Grandma will still be Grandma. If one of the students says their character name is Brad, then it stays Brad. Remember the traditional rule of improv: “Yes, and…” Once a detail is established, everyone goes with it and adds more to keep the scene going.
However, students can add details and create new scenarios within the story that make sense. For example, perhaps the kids discover that Grandma is a secret agent, or Grandma reveals she’s into street racing and takes the kids on a wild ride in a race car to the playground. Important details need to stay the same. For example, students can't randomly change a character’s name from Brad to Steven. However, if there is a clear reason — perhaps Grandma continually gets her grandchild’s name mixed up and he keeps correcting her — it can become a “bit” (a funny recurring moment or joke) and in that case, it’s acceptable.
9. Continue until all groups have had a chance to perform. The final group has to create a conclusion of some sort.
10. Students will complete and submit an exit slip (found below).
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.