Jump to content
Vesperala Forum

Viola Spolin


Recommended Posts

Warm-Up Activities

"I'm a fan of Viola Spolin's and have utilized many of her activities in my classes. They have been adapted by many different coaches, and like any teacher, I try to personalize each one with my own methods of getting the children excited, involved and focused.

It's quite important that students become committed "to the moment". This means they must involve themselves in any stage activity on all levels - intellectually, intuitively and physically. Some games which help to develop these commitments include the following."


-Connor Snyder


This exercise demonstrates to the children how important it is to project their voices.

Place three bean bags in front of a row of children. One about 10 feet away from them - the second about 20 feet away, the third about 35-40 feet away (this can obviously be changed to suit the physical environment of the class).

1. Ask each child to look directly at the first bean bag, say their name and the name of their favorite animal.

2. Instruct him to say the exact same things to the second bean bag.

3. Would he speak with the same volume? Of course not - the "person" is further away.

4. When asked to address the third bean bag, he obviously should be projecting his voice as loud as he can.

5. After all the class has addressed the bean bags, let them know they were really acting in a play just then - reaching the first three rows, the middle rows, and the back rows of the theatre!


Everyone should remember the old "I Love Lucy" series; a favorite of most folks is the episode when Lucy meets Harpo Marx. In one scene, Lucy has dressed exactly like Harpo; as the latter crosses a room, Lucy crosses it the same way. Harpo looks at his "reflection" and proceeds to physicalize these crazy movements with arms, hands, legs, etc. Lucy matches him, move for move. A very funny scene - and exceptionally well done. This is exactly the same premise for "The Mirror Exercise".

1. There are two players. "A" is the follower (mirror) and "B" starts all the action. "A" reflects all B's movements and facial expressions.

2. Simple activities for B to initiate are washing her face, getting dressed, brushing teeth - etc.

3. This exercise promotes inventiveness, clowning, and timing - the children should be encouraged to be as specific as they can with each movement.


The actors will work in groups of 4 - 6 and are instructed to pantomime a single general activity (examples: Playing different sports at school, performing with an orchestra, circus acts, hospital work, etc.)

To communicate the idea of a GENERAL activity, each actor must pantomime a SPECIFIC one.

For example: "Office work".

• One actor mimes being a typist, another delivers the mail, another is a "boss" at a desk (perhaps on the phone), a client visits the office to see the boss, etc.

• The audience then guesses the general activity and then talks about the specific ones.

• Make sure the actors understand they cannot SPEAK - only work with their bodies, facial expressions, etc.


When I was growing up, there wasn't a kid on our block who hadn't played tug of war - it was a passage rite into the "Who's the strongest kid?" competition.

In theatre tug of war, the same concept prevails - except there's no rope whatsoever! The children play with a "space rope".

This game can be played with two, four, six or eight players at a time.

1. The teacher encourages the children to "Pull! Pull" and challenges them to stay in the same space.

2. If the children totally concentrate on the "object" between them, they will use as much energy as if there were a real rope between them.

3. This is an important exercise in that no one can do it alone - it shows that problems can be solved ONLY by interacting with each other!


This is an excellent warm-up activity. Students begin in a scatter formation and move according to the direction given. The following directions indicate parts of the ship. When these directions are given the students move to the corresponding part of the room or activity area.

BOW-The front of the ship

STERN-The rear of the ship

STARBOARD-The right hand side of the ship

PORT-The left hand side of the ship

When the following situations are called the students perform the appropriate action

MATES IN THE GALLEY - Form a group of three, sit in a circle and swing arms "gently" back and forth

INSPECTION - Line up in a straight line facing the instructor without moving and salute

ROLL CALL - Students get in groups of five, one in front of the other

ABANDON SHIP - Students sit and row to shore using a seat walk - or - students sit facing a partner, join hands and perform a rowing motion

LAND HO - One student gets "gently" on another student's back and shields their eyes to see land turning head from side to side

MAN OVERBOARD - One student lays on his/her stomach and the other puts a foot on their back to try and locate the person in the water. ie: with hands in a binocular shape look for the victim

SHARKS - Students run to the center of the gym or playing area so that sharks can't get them

HIT THE DECK- Students drop down to a push-up position and perform push--ups

WALK THE PLANK - Students find a line and and walk the line heel to toe.

LIGHTS OUT - Students lie down and pretend to sleep.

PEG LEG - Students hop on one foot

SWIM FISH, SWIM - Kids jog (swim) around the activity space.

HURRICANE - All students are blown (run) to one end of the gym or playing area. They stick to the wall with one hand.

CANNON BALL - Jump up and land safely on the floor in a round shape and begin rolling.

Other Warm-up Activities

1. The two minute drill: Have children write as many words as they can relating to a certain category such as flavors of ice cream, colors, cities, states, presidents, etc. See who can list the most in the given time limit.

2. The five minute drill: Same as above, only when all the lists are done, have each child trade one or two words from his/her list with another child and see who can write the most sentences containing those two words.

3. Unrelated words: Write two unrelated words on the chalkboard such as elephant and umbrella. Have children try to write sentences using both words.

4. Brainstorming: (a game that children love!) Form several teams of about 5 children. Designate one as the writer. Give them a category such as names of girls, boys, items that have numbers, electrical things, things you find in a drugstore, a bedroom, etc. Have them list as many as they can in a designated time. A point is awarded to the team with the most correct answers. This can be an ongoing game played throughout a few months. (if a child is in the process of writing a word when the time is concluded, he may finish writing the word)

5. Write a list of alphabetical nouns and illustrate at end of each word.

6. Write a list of alphabetical nouns leaving a space in front of each.

Go back and fill in the space with an appropriate adjective.

7. Write a simple sentence such as "The __ dog ran across the ____ street. Have children list 10 GOOD adjectives that might fit into these blanks.



8. Brainstorm a list of active verbs and write on chalkboard. Have children choose one to act out for the class and let their classmates guess which one they are doing.

9. Write a list of silly warnings such as "Don't open this present until Christmas morning or your skin will turn blue, your hair will fall out, and your eyes will cross!"

10. Write a list of silly want ads for the newspaper such as "Boy to trace gasoline lines with lighted candle. Must be willing to travel."

11. Write silly excuses: Why my library book is late.

12. Write a silly home remedy for baldness, the common cold, etc.

13. I promise (with my fingers crossed) that I will never. . . (bother mom when she's on the telephone, tease my brother anymore, etc.)

14. On the first day of school, my teacher gave to me . . . (like the Twelve Days of Christmas, go to different days)

15. Write the ABC's describing yourself using short phrases for each letter. By the same token, use the ABC's to write about dogs, etc.)

16. Here are the answers; you write at least five questions that would fit:

"under the bed, in a minute, yes, no, in the morning, at night, etc."

17. Draw an object such as an apple, pumpkin, star, etc. then write words that relate to it inside.

18. Use Alpha Bits Cereal - give each group of two children a large handful, and see which group can spell the longest list of words of 3 or more letters

19. Use shaving cream - spray on desk and allow children to smooth all around just like finger paint, then give them spelling words to write in the shaving cream. The children love this activity and once the desks are washed, the room has a wonderfully clean smell and the desks are clean!) This technique can also be used for doing math problems!

20. Give everyone a classmate's name on a piece of paper. Write a short description of that person. Read aloud and see if children can guess who it is.

21. Find a short article in the newspaper. Cut off the headline and have children write their own. (great support for main idea)

22. Write a nine word sentence in which "animal" is in the fifth position.

(any word may be substituted in any position)

23. Write a sentence that has at least 4 "t's. (or any other letter)

24. Write one word on the chalkboard. Have children write a paragraph using that word. Give them a five minute time limit.

25. Write three letters on the chalkboard such as "m,p, and h" and use them as beginning letters of words to be used in sentences. They may be used in any order with additional words added. Mary's puppy had a new collar. My horse pranced through the gate. Practice makes Haley a better student.

26. Practice spelling words using colored chalk on black construction paper.

27. Make up some secret codes.

28. Help! On the overhead write a sentence or paragraph for children to find mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Allow them to correct on the overhead. (Kids love to use the overhead!)

29. Find short articles in newspapers and have students work in small groups to underline all the adjectives, circle all the verbs, etc.

30. Design a bumper sticker with a message that is important to you.

31. Write a tongue twister.

32. Write a friendship recipe including ingredients that you think are important. They may include such items as 1 cup of honesty, 1/2 c. of generosity, 1 Tbs. of enthusiasm, etc.

33. Give children general Halloween riddles to which they can write an answer. Here are some examples:

How does it feel to be kissed by Dracula?

What kind of music do mummies like?

What advice does a mother ghost give to her children?

What do ghosts eat for breakfast?

34. True Lies - Have students write 8 - 10 sentences about themselves. Within the realm of the sentences ask them to write 3 or four lies. When finished, read sentences aloud to classmates and see if they can tell which statements are lies.

35. Hink Pinks - These are original riddles answered by two rhyming one-syllable words. An example might be:

What do you call a dog that gets caught in a meat grinder? Ground hound

What do you call a wealthy tattle tale? A rich snitch (by Alex)

Hinky-Pinky - an original riddle answered with two rhyming TWO-syllable words

What do you call a wet toad? A soggy froggy

Hinkety-Pinkety - an original riddle answered with two THREE-syllable words

What do you call an evil clergyman? A sinister minister

36. Try writing the entire weekly spelling list into one sentence!



Two brothers decided to dig a deep hole behind their house. As they were working, a couple of older boys stopped by to watch.

"What are you doing?" asked one of the visitors.

"We plan to dig a hole all the way through the earth!" one of the brothers volunteered excitedly

The older boys began to laugh, telling the younger ones that digging a hole all the way through the earth was impossible. After a long silence, one of the diggers picked up a jar full of spiders, worms and a wide assortment of insects. He removed the lid and showed the wonderful contents to the scoffing visitors. Then he said quietly and confidently, "Even if we don't dig all the way through the earth, look what we found along the way!

Their goal was far too ambitious, but it did cause them to dig. And that is what a goal is for — to cause us to move in the direction we have chosen; in other words, to set us to digging!

But; not every goal wilt be fully achieved. Not every job will end successfully. Not every relationship will endure. Not every hope will come to pass. Not every love will | last. Not every endeavor will be completed. Not every dream will be realized. But when you fall short of your aim, perhaps you can say, "Yes, but look at what I found along the way! Look at the wonderful things which have come into my life because I tried to do something!

It is in the digging that; life is lived. And I believe it is joy in the journey, in the end, that truly matters.




about Viola Spolin


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...