Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Physical Warm-Up Game: Shadows

This is a classic theatre game; you might know it as Shadow Walk, Follow the Leader, or Leader & Follower. It is deceptively simple at first glance: students walking around the room imitating each other. However, there are lots of opportunities for learning in this simple yet fun game: making choices, following directions, leadership, volume management, focusing, spatial awareness, and paying attention to detail. This warm-up game is appropriate for middle or high school students. Read on for instructions and a variation for gameplay.


1. Have students pair up. All the pairs will participate at the same time. Determine which partner will go first. They will be the leader.

2. The leader will walk around the room in their usual gait but at a slightly slower pace.

3. The second partner, the shadow, will follow them, about two feet behind, trying to imitate them exactly — just like a shadow. This will likely seem like a ridiculously easy task, but to succeed, students need to focus and pay attention to detail. Have them look at the characteristics of their partner’s walk, such as their posture, length of steps, what they do with their hands, and the “weight” of their steps (such as tiptoeing versus stomping). This is why the first partner should walk a bit slower than they usually do, so their partner can try to copy them exactly.

4. Then, the leader will add one element to their walk to make it different, such as a skip, hop, arm movement, or knee bend. The shadow will continue to imitate the leader as precisely as possible.

5. Finally, the leader will do a big, ridiculous walk of their choosing, using all the parts of their body while maintaining the slow walking pace. Students should choose movements that their partner is physically able to do (for example, not everyone can drop down into the splits) and that are safe (keep an eye out for flailing limbs). The shadow will continue to imitate the first partner as accurately as possible.

6. After enough time has passed, have partners switch roles, so the second partner has the opportunity to lead and the first partner has the opportunity to shadow.

7. As a reminder, the challenge is for the leader to move slowly and deliberately, while the shadow copies their partner exactly.

Variation: Once each partner has been the leader, have students get into a big circle and close their eyes. Then secretly select one leader. Students will then open their eyes and walk slowly in a circle, shadowing the student in front of them. The leader will subtly start a movement, with everyone else following them. See if students can guess who the leader is.

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