Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt like something was off? It might have been because the person you were speaking to was using body language that didn’t match what they were saying. Sometimes someone’s verbal cues (what they’re saying) don’t match their nonverbal cues (what their body is doing — posture, gestures, facial expressions — also known as body language).
The following improvisation game gives students the opportunity to present and observe various verbal and nonverbal cues, and compare and contrast how they feel when the cues don’t match.
1. Have students stand in a circle.
2. Give the class a generic line, such as “I’m so mad at you,” “It’s good to see you,” “Can you help me?” or “Yes, I understand.”
3. One by one, have students go around the circle and say the line, while using appropriate body language that they think matches what they are saying. For example, if the line is “I’m so mad at you,” students might clench their fists, stomp their feet, or cross their arms to show that they are angry. (The key word is “might” — different students may have different ways of demonstrating what they think are “appropriate” nonverbal cues. You may want to discuss this with your class.)
4. Then, go around the circle a second time and have students say the same line again, but with a different nonverbal cue (gesture, facial expression, or posture) that doesn’t match what they are saying. For example, they might jump up and down while laughing, hide behind a friend, look away, cross their eyes — any sort of gesture that doesn’t “go with” what they are saying.
5. Have two students standing opposite each other in the circle meet in the middle. Give one student an opening line and have the other student improvise a one-line reply. Both students must try to present body language that does not match what they are saying.