Thursday, October 29, 2015

Game: Synchronized Speaking

The abilities to listen carefully, to both lead and follow, and to read other people, are important in so many aspects of librarianship. In reference and instruction, in being a valuable team member, in supervising others... It's hard to think of an aspect of our work where such skills are not an asset. This simple game offers the opportunity to practice these skills.

How to play

Three or more players. Two players will be identified as the synchronized speaker. Their role is to answer questions or tell a story in one voice, with no prior planning. Other players can ask questions or offer a prompt to get a story going. Questions should move beyond those of a yes/no nature.
  • Example:
    Player one: Please tell me what interests you about this job
    Players 2 and 3 extemporaneously answer the question in unison

Game: Yes, and

The improv philosophy is one of accepting what's offered to you and building on it. In improv, it means whatever is said or offered by another player is the new reality. Knowing that whatever is said or done will be met with acceptance is the liberating feature that allows people to take chances, stretch their thinking, and be in the moment. "Yes, and" is not so much about agreeing, but rather acknowledging and accepting what is offered and moving things forward. This game helps build trust, confidence, collaboration and a positive environment. Imagine using "Yes, and" in a planning meeting. Oh, the possibilities. Try using "yes, and" in response to student comments in classroom discussions or colleague contributions in meetings. This affirming response encourages them flesh out and expand their ideas.

How to play

  • One player makes a statement. Every subsequent statement begins with an enthusiastic "Yes, and" . The starting statement doesn't have to be library related, but it can be. This game can be played among partners, or among larger groups. In groups, players can take turns sequentially, or they can stand in a circle and make eye contact with another person in the circle indicating that that person will go next, or people can call out responses randomly. For extra energy, have the entire group chime in on the "Yes, ands"
  • Example
    1st player: There's a pingpong table in the library
    Group: YES,AND...2nd player: it's so popular we have lines of people waiting to playGroup: YES,AND...3rd player: we decided to spend our entire book budget on pingpong ballsGroup: YES,AND...4th player: the room where we store all the balls has become a ball pit
    Group: YES,AND...
    5th player: we started charging admission to this room 
    Group: YES,AND...6th player: it's solved our budget crisis.
  • Variation
    You could pair this exercise with a similar "Yes, but" exercise to compare what happens and how it makes people feel.

Game: Keyword Taboo

Here's a little game to play with your students to get them thinking about alternative keywords.

How to play

  • Librarian asks a student to share her research topic with the class. As the student describes it, the librarian writes on the board the key words that the student uses. Now the librarian asks the class to generate a list of words to use in researching this topic. But this time they cannot use any of the words written on the board.
  • Example
    Student: I'm researching pay to play and college athletes.
    [Librarian writes pay-to-play college athletes on the board]
    Librarian: What words can we use to get at this topic without using the words on the board?
    Class: Sports athletics compensation higher education NCAA
  • Variation
    Have students work in pairs or small groups, sharing topics, writing down "taboo" words, and listing alternative keywords.

Game: New Choice

Reference work requires the ability to change course or strategy on the spot. We are constantly responding to questions and situations that are unique and therefore impossible to prepare for. When one approach doesn't pan out, we need to be able to try something different. 

Teaching always involves an element of improv. But library teaching often has an extra dose, because librarians often teach at the request of another instructor, but have little to no control over student preparation, class culture, research topics, etc. When a librarian plans a lesson based on the premise that students will have identified research topics, but the students show up without yet having thought about research topics, the librarian has to change course. This is a game that hones .

Planning involves creative thinking in exploring new possibilities, stretching ourselves beyond the obvious choices, and considering alternatives.

New choice helps hone librarian's ability to change course on a dime and move beyond the obvious.

 How to play

  • Three players.
  • Two players are given a situation. It doesn't have to be library related, but it can be. They begin acting out a scene. The third player is the caller.  During the scene, the caller can occasionally call out "New choice," requiring the player to back up to the last verbal choice made and try a new one.
  • Example
    Scenario: two students meeting in the library. As the scene develops, it appears that one is attracted to the other...
    Player one: Do you have a piece of paper I can borrow?
    Player two: I do, but you'll have to leave collateral
    Caller: New choice!
    Player two: I do, but it has my name and phone number written on it
    [scene continues until the caller calls "New choice" again]
  • Variation
    In addition to verbal choices, the caller can ask for new choices in movement or sound effects by calling out "New choice sound effect," or "New choice movement."

Game: Repeat a line

Active and deep listening is a skill in which most of us can always use more practice. Good library reference service requires the ability to listen carefully and completely. And sometimes that means avoiding the tendency to prematurely start answering a question before it has been fully articulated. 

Effective leadership requires the ability to listen without jumping to conclusions. And productive teams are those in which members can listen as well as contribute.

This game helps develop skills of listening completely. In this game, you  simply cannot prepare a response until you've fully heard your partner.

 How to play

  • Two players.
  • Two players are given a situation. It doesn't have to be library related, but it can be. They begin having a conversation. However, each player must repeat the last line spoken by the other player before adding to the conversation. (Repeating the line can include minor paraphrases to make pronouns match, etc.). This game is more challenging, and interesting, if players use statements rather than questions. 
  • Example
    (Keep in mind, this is not supposed to be a model reference interview. The rules of the game are too limiting for that. And besides, what fun would that be?)
  • Scenario: a frustrated student approaches a librarian
    Player one: My professor told me to talk to you about my research topic.
    Player two: Your professor told you to talk to me about your research topic. Your professor must have sent you here for a reason. Perhaps you are struggling to find information on your topic. Or perhaps you Googled your topic and turned in the first five results as your bibliography.
    Player one: I Googled my topic and turned in the first five results as my bibliography. It seems good enough to me. I don't know why I should have to learn all this research when all I really want to do with my life is to be a trapeze artist.
    Player two: You want to be a trapeze artist... [and the scene continues]
  • Variation
    Instead of repeating the last line spoken, the player must begin his/her response by starting with the last word spoken by the previous player.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Welcome to Library Improv

This is a space for sharing ideas, games, and examples for using the positive and creative aspects of improv to enhance the work of librarians.