June 20

Word Association – #EthicalELA Open Write #3

Today’s prompt asked us to look around our space and notice an object, then go through an exercise of word associations with the object. I cheated… only a little… and took the idea of the prompt. Word associations are commonly used in improv warmups and practices as a way to help the players focus and really connect with their fellow performers, so that was the first word that popped into my mind.


hands loosely grasped
circled together
heads bowed in concentration
listening, observing
waiting, focusing, seeking
that one mind
that leads all
to the same conclusion
and a bout of laughter


April 11

#VerseLove Day 11, #Quirky

I loved the idea of today’s “#quirky” #VerseLove prompt, but had a hard time identifying a topic. This poem talks about something that I certainly love, and that many people who know me best are surprised, nay, stunned to discover is a favorite form of play.

name five things —
that are quirky
elephants –
clams –
poetry –
my friends –
playing this game

once –
upon –
a –
time –
a –
porcupine –
got –
stuck –
under –
his –

I want a ticket to the moon –
yes, and would you like to buy a constellation with that? –
yes, and a guitar to serenade the flight crew, too

improv is
the most
thing I do

April 23

Intersections of poetry & improv

My friend Kim recently wrote about how she and her students were writing poems using inspiration from three words provided by the students. She describes how in the first iteration, the poems were very literal in their interpretation. Kim then worked with the students to brainstorm imagery related to the words. Finally, she challenged them (and herself) to write a poem using the three words without the poem being about any of the words. As she understates, “[t]his was much more difficult!”

Kim’s observations parallel the learning process of improv, a new-ish endeavor of mine. At the beginning of a set, the performers typically ask the audience to provide one or more words that are then used as inspiration for creating scenes and story lines. Just as Kim describes, emerging players often create scenes that stick close to the literal words, whereas more experienced players use them truly as inspiration and wander much further afield in associations and connections. As a result, their scenes are richer and more satisfying, to both the performers and the audience.

Developing any new competence takes time, practice, encouragement and constructive feedback. I’m fortunate to be learning to perform improv at a studio which swarms with supportive, encouraging instructors and fellow performers. This nurturing environment is part of the culture, fostered by the owner and artistic director.

In our schools, we have the same opportunity, and responsibility, to develop and sustain a culture which encourages students to grow into their full potential.