Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Teaching with Games
To observers of my workshops with gifted children, what I'm doing looks pretty unremarkable. I leap around the room a bit more than most instructors, perhaps, but basically I spend the whole time playing games with the kids. Another improv teacher could come in and not perceive anything wildly unusual about what I'm up to.
What I'm doing is interacting with the kids as a gifted adult and teaching on multiple levels. I create a space where everyone is safe yet free to explore, knowing on some level that I will hold the space for them. I always go in with a lesson plan, but very often I will modify it, mix up the order, or abandon it completely.
I teach to the needs of the group with a constant awareness of the group dynamic and developmental purpose of each game. I follow the "aliveness" - the game that intrigues the kids, the one they want to play again and again. I take the elements of that game and present each one in a different game format to find out exactly what fascinates them so much. Then I push for more risk-taking and opportunities to fail in that area; or I use the format to teach another learning objective.
It sounds very involved but I do it all almost subconciously because I am deeply in the moment. This immersive teaching process is something that can be applied to teaching lots of different things, but it does require enormous creativity and mental energy. I first saw it modeled by my teacher, Keith Johnstone and I was so inspired. He was having as much fun as we were, solving the problems we presented to him minute by minute.
Games are a great way to teach things. Improv games are usually highly entertaining to play and hilarious to watch. However, as learning tools, games themselves are pretty useless on their own. They need a teacher who knows how, when, and why they are useful and who constantly adapts the game to the group. With gifted kids, this requires an exceptionally sensitive individual who can understand the patterns and processes of the gifted and teach to their learning edge.
Technorati tags: education gifted improv
btw jo jo, i think every gifted kid should read the story of evariste galois. if you can get your hands on "whom the gods love" by leopold infeld its great tale. there are lots of online mini bios around too. like this one: Galois Bio