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What’s in the Pocket? An improv game that helps foster creativity and public speaking skills

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Number of Participants: Any

Setting (Indoor / Outdoor): Any

Estimate Execution Time: 30 mins

‘What’s in the pocket?’ is an improve game that helps foster creativity and public speaking skills.

  1. Everyday objects that can be found in a child’s or an adult’s pocket. Objects could be – key chain, money, laundry slip, coins, pen, handkerchief, hair tie, chocolate, tissue, credit card, petrol receipt, lego piece, puzzle piece,piece of paper, plastic insects, stickers, string of rope, nuts, plastic animal, biscuit crumbs, etc.
  2. Thumbs-up sign – print out for each player (ATTACHMENT – Thumbs up cutout – Click HERE to Download)
  3. Chart or board to write on
  4. Marker pen or a chalk
  1. Ask the players to check if they have some things in their pockets. Every player should have at least two things in the pocket. Ask the players not to reveal their pocket contents to anyone. If any player’s pockets are empty, secretly give them any two objects to put in their pocket.
  2. All the players stand in a circle.
  3. Choose a player to start the activity.
  4. Player 1 asks player 2 ‘What is in the pocket?’
  5. Player 2 player pulls out any object from his / her pocket and gives it to player 1.
  6. Player 1 now has to speak about – “why this object is so important to me that I carry it around in my pocket everyday.” Because the object comes from someone else’s pocket there is an element of surprise and on-the-spot thinking is required.
  7. After player 1 has finished talking, the other players will vote the talk with a thumbs-up sign if they liked it. A player cannot vote for their own talk.
  8. The facilitator will ask those players who gave a thumbs-up vote, ‘can you tell us one thing that you liked about the talk? Possible answers could be – it was funny, he acted well, she talked about superman, i really felt that a pencil is the most important thing to keep in your pocket, she was loud and clear, he talked about something new, etc.
  9. The facilitator will listen to the responses and write them on a board / chart, in terms of qualities of a good talk. For example: ‘it was funny’ means a talk should have ‘humour / wit’; ‘he acted well’ OR ‘she was loud and clear’ means ‘a speaker should use their body, face and voice to express’; ‘she talked about superman’ OR ‘he talked about something new’ means a talk should have ‘imagination or creativity’
  10. The facilitator does this after every player’s talk. Be careful not to get into a longer discussion at the end of every talk. Else, the activity will get boring for everyone.
  11. The next turn starts. Player 2 will ask player 3 ‘What is in the pocket?’ and the activity continues in this manner until everyone is done speaking at least once.
  1. Since this activity focuses on improv and public speaking skills, it will be good for the participants to get feedback on their talks. This feedback is advised for participants older than 5 years.
  2. When the facilitator is making notes on the board (see step 9), there might be repetition of certain characteristics, like humour, creativity, tone of voice, etc. Facilitator keeps underlining the characteristic that gets repeated on the chart or the board to see the most popular characteristics.
  3. At the end of the activity, the facilitator will summarise from the board what are main characteristics of a good improv talk or public talk. Encourage the players to use these methods in the future while speaking publicly.
  1. A facilitator’s role is to conduct the activity – put together the material, give instructions, ensure fairness and no cheating, keep time and score, ask reflection questions and summarise the learning. Any extra tasks will be mentioned in the other sections.
  2. In this activity, the facilitator (parent / teacher) could also participate as a player, especially if number of players is less than 3.
  3. Set up the activity like a game, to be fun. DO NOT make it stressful for the players such that they feel that they are being tested.
  4. The facilitator SHOULD NOT take on the role of a teacher. If there is a discussion at the end of activity, the facilitator should draw out the learnings from the players’ experience of the activity. Be careful that you DON’T start preaching to the players from your own life experiences.
  1. It is possible that some players do not have a pocket in their clothes. In this situation give such players small bags that you have prepared in advance with any two objects in it.
  2. Ask the speaker to pretend as if the object belongs to him / her. It gets funny when the speaker is saying why some object is so important to them, when in reality the object came from someone else’s pocket.
  3. If you are playing with older participants (older than 5 years), it might be a good idea to assign scores. Players vote each other’s talk with a thumbs-up sign. Number of thumbs-up equal to the number of points the player gets for that talk. Player with highest number of points at the end of the activity wins.

Say, player 2 asks player 3, “what is in the pocket?” Player 3 pulls out a toy car from her pocket and gives it to player 2. Player 2 now starts talking about why this toy car is so important to him. Player 2 says, “This is my favourite toy car. When I grow up, I want a car just like this one. I carry this toy car in my pocket everyday so that if I meet a genie somewhere, I can ask the genie to turn this toy car into a real car right there.”

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Written by Saurabh Agarwal

Education and Public Policy Expert
Harvard and IIT Alumni

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