ESL Improv Exercises
By Rosalind Flynn
Here are 29 opening lines—improv starters—to get two-person improvisations jump-started. Each line is created to give the student actors a sense of the characters and setting for an improvised scene. Directions:
Put these Opening Lines into a Google Doc or just use this blog.
Adjust these lines to the ESL level of your students. Change names to the student names, etc.
Assemble student actors into groups of two scene partners.
Explain that one student actor per pair will receive a private Instant Message that has an opening line printed in it. That student actor will need to read and understand the pronunciation of the opening line, but will not reveal the line to his or her scene partner—yet. This line will be the first line spoken in the pair’s improv.
Give one member of each pair their Instant Message. Give them time to read and practice the line.
Remind student actors of the classroom improvisation guidelines.
Have each pair present their improv.
Hold a brief reflection on each improv—“What can you praise?” “What might they polish?”
I wouldn’t go that way if I were you.
Excuse me, ma’am. I need to return this shirt for a refund.
Miss, I am afraid I did not order a hot dog for dinner.
Look, I know you hate this, but we need at least one good photo of you.
So, Jordan, please explain why Paul’s homework was in your backpack.
Officer, please, no! Don’t give me a speeding ticket!
Do you think Mother would like this crown or the silver one?
Oh! It is such an honor to meet you! Could I get your autograph for my daughter?
Sir, your suitcase will not fit in the overhead bin.
I think our cheer needs a better jump and some words that rhyme with "team."
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome today’s guest—Pat Perkins—an expert on how to organize your desk!
Look, my muscles are killing me! Can’t we take a break from this workout?
Just rip the paper off! I can’t wait for you to see this totally unique gift!
Excuse me, ma’am. Is that dinosaur skeleton real or is it just a model?
Well, this is what we’ve been training for—the Olympics! Are you ready to earn that gold medal?
I think these shoes make my feet look far too big. Please get me a different pair.
Ugh! All the other parents let their kids see PG-13 movies! You’ve just got to let me go!
All you have to do is step-kick-step-kick-step-kick. Now try it with me.
Behind us is the U.S. Capitol Building, and over there, you’ll see the Washington Monument.
It’s just a little tattoo on my arm! Dad has one! I don’t see why you are so upset!
Mr. Higgins, please tell our viewers how you plan to spend your lottery winnings!
I understand you were an eyewitness to the skateboard theft. Please tell our viewers what you saw.
Oh, I am so sorry, but pumpkin spice latte season ended yesterday! What other drink can I get you?
Did you honestly think that a trail of breadcrumbs would help us find our way out of the forest and back to our house?
Stop right there. You are not leaving this house dressed like that!
Halt right there! You are not leaving this palace dressed like that!
Your teacher tells me that your classroom behavior is inappropriate. What is your side of the story?
I am so sorry, but your credit card has been declined. I’ll need another form of payment.
O woe! O pity! There is no way we shall ever reach the castle by dark!
Ew! I thought you said you could cook!
These are all pretty open-ended with scope for developing (or not). Further development on these can be achieved by giving the actors conflicting objectives. Some of these are more suited to obviously comic games.
Visiting the Dentists
Boarding a bus
First day in a new job
Taking a pet to the vets
Visiting the Doctor
Buying a second hand car
Having a photo taken
Choosing a gift for a partner
Selling your house
Hiring a private detective
Getting a quote from a builder
Having your hair done
Pushing into a queue
Visiting someone in hospital
Ordering a Wedding Cake
On a spying mission
The first men in space
Visiting the parents-in-law
Getting a signature
Hypochondriac at the doctors
Slow service in a restaurant
Police officer pulls someone over
A has just finished decorating when B comes home and doesn't like the colour
Two construction workers find buried treasure
Two army officers deciding who to send on a dangerous raid
Customer complaining to chef about a meal in a busy restaurant
Parliamentary candidate canvassing for votes
Two Jockeys in a stable before a race
Two criminals on the run
Stuck in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff
Gangster who has been shot visiting a doctor to remove the bullets
Helping a friend deal with amnesia
Breaking the news of a dead pet to a friend
Trapped in a lift
At a funeral home
Getting changed in a public changing room
2 Doctors called to an emergency
On Noah's ark
Two people on a train with the ticket collector coming