Classroom Exercise

Warm-Up Exercise: Elephant Walk

Warm-up Exercise: Elephant Walk
Written by Kerry Hishon

This warm-up exercise is simple, but sometimes that’s just what you need — a simple yet fun warm-up that gets your students up and moving around. This exercise is also quiet — no speaking allowed! It’s a great way for students to practice individual mime and tableau skills in a low-pressure environment, since the whole group is moving at the same time.

Elephant Walk is great for students at any skill level. You’ll find some adaptation ideas below for more advanced learners. It’s also useful for helping your students loosen up and be silly together, as well as helping you get to know your students better. You’ll be able to gauge their base effort and risk-taking abilities. How far are they willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone? Give it a try and find out.

Instructions:

  • Have students spread out around the room, standing in a neutral position (feet flat on the floor, hands by sides). On your cue, students will walk around the room at a medium to slow pace.

  • Call out an animal for students to portray through their movements as they travel around the room. When they hear the animal, they are to immediately (and silently) move how they think that animal would. Choose an animal that has the potential for different levels and/or speeds of movement, such as an elephant, giraffe, snake, crab, lion, gazelle, peacock, parrot — whatever you think will challenge your students! Encourage students to use their entire bodies and facial expressions to portray the animal.

  • Call out “freeze!” Each student must freeze in place in a solo tableau until you call out the next animal. At that moment, students will start moving around the room as the new animal until you call “freeze” again.

  • Repeat as many times as you wish with different animals.

  • Discuss: What was the easiest part of this warm-up exercise? What was the most difficult? What animal did you enjoy portraying the most? Why?

Alternative: Have students move around the room as if they’re engaged various sports activities, such as skiing, skating, rowing, swimming (there are many different varieties), dancing (again, there are many varieties to choose from), bobsledding, triple-jumping, or power-walking. Just ensure that all movement is “non contact,” in case you use football as a prompt!

For advanced drama students: Have students walk around the room in an upright “human” style, but using the animal/sports prompt as a guide to inform their human character. They might plod like an elephant, or glide like they’re a snake. How can they make their movements more subtle and nuanced, but still different from how they normally walk?

You can also use the article Why You Need to Rehearse in Your Character’s Shoes as inspiration for an alternative version of this exercise. Have students walk around the room in the footwear they’re currently wearing (or have them take their shoes off if they’re willing) but call out various shoe prompts such as sneakers, high heels, flip-flops, ballet slippers, scuba flippers, cowboy boots, or tap shoes. How can students portray a different style of shoe through their movements? How does the shoe prompt inform the rest of their body movements?

Click here for a free reflection for your students.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.