Summer Skool: Lesson 1) Failure Can Be Fun

As I may have mentioned before, because I believe in lifelong learning and all that other crap, I’m taking and acting class through Harvard Summer School this summer. It’s a great way to keep myself sharp, remind myself what it’s like to be a student and learn some new activities. More on my first impressions later, but for now I’m keeping a log of all the activities we do so I can actually remember them well enough come September to teach them to my classes. Future Pupils of Ms. Apple, you’ve been warned, I’ve got a whole boatload of stuff comin’ right atcha!

Since it’s week one, like any good drama class, we’re starting with getting to know each other. One of the first things the teacher said about the class was that it’s a, “laboratory to experiment” and, “it’s ok to fail, failure can be fun, failure is where you grow.”

Totally stealing that pearl of wisdom. Some of my kids really need to hear it.

Activity One:

This one’s sort of a variation on two truths and a lie, and it introduces a lot of useful actor basics too.

  • Have the class sit on one side of the room, “audience style”
  • Call two students up to the front. One student will be the observer, one the observed.
  • The observed’s job is to stand in actor’s neutral, no twitching, no laughing while the observer described 5 true things (because of time and focus, I’d shorten it to three with kids) about the observed. The observer must use the observed’s name with each statement so that it gets in the class’ head. Example: Apple has brown hair, Apple is wearing sneakers, Apple has a tattoo, etc. cetra.
  • Then, the fun comes in when the observer then makes up 5 untrue statements about the observed, when again, the observed must remain in neutral and not react! Our teacher instructed us that these 5 untrue statements had to be the most scandalous, outrageous and heinous things we could think of. I would definitely modify this for younger kids, as some of the things we adults came up with really treaded on the border of bad taste and could cause a lot of undesirable friction in a group of kids that would just derail the activity.
  • Once this is done, the observer gets to choose another person to come up and observe, and the process repeats until the whole room has gone, pausing periodically for a quiz.
  • The game is actually incredibly effective. The name repetition combined with the outrageous observations really solidified the names for me.

Activity Two: Bean Bag Toss

  • Stand in a circle. Pass about 10 bean bags out to random member of the group. If you are holding a beanbag you must, “make a contract”, with another person in the circle, and toss it to them. The instructor times the group. If a beanbag hits the floor you yell, “drop” and the time start over. Try to go a minute without dropping. It’s harder than you think!


  • Without names, using eye contact only
  • Moving the entire circle clockwise or counter-clockwise
  • If a person drops a beanbag, the person who throws it to them is out
  • Play until you have a winner

Activity Three: Modified Musical Chairs:

  • Same premise as traditional musical chairs. When the music stops, the person without a chair has to, “face trial” for the “hideous crime” they were rumored to have committed from activity one. The person who observed them accuses them of the crime (“Apple likes to kick puppies.”), and the accused has to defend her or himself
  • If the group thinks the defendant is guilty they have to dance in the center of the circle for the remainder of the game, if the group thinks the defendant is, “not guilty” they get to sit out on a chair and be the jury, deciding the fate of the rest of the players.
  • Play until there is a winner.

Thoughts? What’s your favorite way of getting to know a new group of people?

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