Drama games (building verbal creativity in 30 minutes / 5 games)

The games below provide a good basis for developing verbal creativity, improvisation, communication skills and the ability to concentrate on the partner and to give a quick reaction or response. All the skills and attitudes above are part of the competence of the Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship (Lisbon Key Competences). Experiencing and practising them in a game could help to adapt and use them in other contexts and situations.


Fanni Szemerédi has an MA in cultural management and an MA in teaching literature. She
has worked in several cultural programs and drama projects for youth in different theatres in Hungary. Since 2016 she works for a professional independent theatre in Budapest as a program coordinator and also contributes to the youth program of the theatre as a drama teacher working with both adults and teenagers.


Exploring our verbal expressiveness in a playful situation helps us to release inhibitions, to
liberate associative thinking, to become aware of improving our verbal toolkit, and it helps us to develop a ready-to-play attitude.

Structure of the process:

1. Word association game – whole group

Participants are sitting next to each other in a circle. The facilitator starts a word-chain with a sentence: “Ball makes me think of… playground.” The next player sitting next to them says “Playground makes me think of see-saw”. And so on… You can have more rounds after the first one. There is a version of this game in which players have to remember their two words because at the end of the round the word-chain turns back
and everybody has to say the two words in the opposite order than before. The facilitator can always give the first two words in one sentence, which makes it possible for him or her to bring a topic to the circle.

2. Group storytelling – whole group

Participants are sitting next to each other in a circle. In this type of group storytelling, each person tells part of the story and leaves a cliffhanger for the next person to continue. Every member can say only one sentence. The last person in the circle to tell the story gets to decide how the story ends.

Participants shall be aware that according to the rules of improvisation (“yes, and…”) every word already spoken has to be accepted as truth and needs to be taken and taken on. Don’t forget any details that are already known!

Tip: certain phrases help to build twists and turns to the story: e.g. “suddenly” “meanwhile” “but”. Use them! Well-known phrases from tales help as well (e.g. once upon a time).

Tip: it’s easier and more exciting to leave a cliffhanger in the middle of a sentence, so that every person says one and a half sentences.

Version: we can define the genre.


3. Unfortunately – fortunately – whole group

This game works exactly like group storytelling: every player can add one more sentence to the story. But there is one more rule: the sentence has to start with the word “fortunately” and “unfortunately” alternately. The sentences have to connect to each other and build a storyline. e.g. Fortunately we managed to wake up early to get to the airport in time. Unfortunately the airport was locked down because a lion that had
escaped from the circus was walking around there. Fortunately the lion fell asleep… etc…


4. Storytelling in pairs a-b)

The following two games are played by pairs. One of the two people starts to tell a story, whereas the other keeps giving new impulses from time to time. So the story is written by the two of them.

a) Just nod or shake your head…

One of the players starts to tell a story, the other player from time to time shakes their head or nods to show which way the story shall go on, which could happen in every sentence. The storyteller follows the instructions. Once upon a time there was a witch (headshake), a princess (headshake), a frog (nod). This frog met one day a dog (headshake), a princess (headshake), an elf (nod)… Swap roles!

b) Answer the question

One of the players starts to tell a story. To keep continuing it the other player helps them with questions. The storyteller goes on by following the questions with answers. The questions can ask for details (what, with whom? how?…), reasons behind actions (why?) and anything that occurs to the listener. Swap roles!

5. Interview with experts

A pair in front of the whole class. One of the players is the interviewer, the other one is the expert who has to convince the audience that he / she is a real expert. Keith Johnstone says that the best way to ask questions is to start to speak immediately without knowing in advance what the end of the sentence / question will be.
E.g. Let me introduce tonight’s guest… professor, who… just came back from Africa where he / she… taught hippos to sing… rule of improvisation: what has already been said is true and the others shall go on with it… (In this game, asking questions is
more difficult than being an expert.)

Other experts games: https://dramaresource.com/experts/

Your Approach:

In these games there are no wrong answers or ideas. Every idea shall be taken and taken on. That’s how we can learn and practice being aware of others, being flexible and open to
impulses and suggestions. The other thing that makes us flexible is not sticking to ideas – if the other player shakes their head, we have to throw out our idea and quickly come up with a new one.

The facilitator shall always tell the rules of the game very exactly at the beginning so that they are clear and leave no questions. However, after telling the
instructions, it helps when the facilitator asks if there are any questions, and we start the game only when everything is clear. During pair work the facilitator can go round to check whether every instruction was clear, but they shouldn’t interrupt the storytelling.


When playing the expert game: it is better to play with volunteer players who are willing to play. The participants who are a bit shier could be more comfortable working in pairs than presenting in front of the whole group.


Written by: Fanni Szemerédi, InSite Drama, Hungary