Improv for Academics

Does the thought of being in front of a classroom cause you anxiety? Are you looking for ways to help your students be less nervous and more comfortable in the classroom?

This workshop will draw principles and exercises from improvisational theater to explore strategies for working with and calming the nerves that often accompany public speaking and interaction in the classroom. Improv is a theatrical practice that is performed live and constructed in the moment. Improv exercises emphasize cooperation, generosity, comfort with spontaneity and responsiveness to unexpected situations. These skills, when transferred to the classroom, can increase student engagement and foster group cooperation.

Improv for Academics was offered in the Spring 2017 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop and materials were developed by Mei Ling Chua.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and slides.

Materials Folder: Improv for Academics

Workshop Plan


  • Hellos and Welcome
  • Activity: Icebreaker
    • 2 truths and a lie
    • then go around asking how it felt for participants, (emotion, physical)
  • Quick intro of common reasons for nerves,
  • What are nerves: feeling of arousal, nerves/excitement same symptoms of arousal, sympathetic/parasympathetic, fight or flight.
    • TIp/Exercise reframing.
    • calming self help transmit different thing (lying has same look as nerves, )

Attention/Accepting the nerves: self calming and class prep strategies

  • Activity: Breathing Exercises, belly breathing, box breathing…
  • Activity: Body Scan
  • Classroom strategies: having extra prep, ppt use, reference Sakina’s post, list as resource on activity sheet.
  • Connect relaxation and not looking nervous to the appearance of competence.and engagement…segue to improv exercises
  • Talk about alt exercises need to think…( sitting on chair v. floor different ability, if asking to touch other people or not, do not assme that it is ok), different ability) even within classroom had done this as
    • Ground rules for save space collectively? dry erase or chalk board it? or type

Exercises practicing spontaneity/improvisation (q: how many how long? haha) strategize to be able to scale for varying group sizes.

  • Activity: improv exercises
  • Ways of “i don’t know let me get back to you later”, how to not be the expert,

End: ask ways ppl have been coping/doing other strategies they would like to share?