Professional Development

Improving Classroom Culture and Communication with Improv

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Improving Classroom Culture and Communication with Improv


Michael Hartwell is Baltimore-based educator, improviser, and facilitator.  He is the Education Director for the Baltimore Improv Group, a Teaching Artist for Young Audiences of Maryland, and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, teaching improv to science and engineering students.  He has taught improv to adults and children since 2013.  Prior to his current work, Michael was a Teach For America corps member and Baltimore City Schools middle school teacher for ten years.  He is a member of BIG’s main stage troupe Gus, along with special projects PUMPS and After School Grandma. Outside of improv and education, Michael is an avid reader, dog lover, music snob, certified Master Gardener, and uniformly disappointed Buffalo Bills fan.

The pillars of improve—Listen, Agree, and Add—are essential to effective collaboration in and out of the classroom. In Improving Classroom Culture and Communication with Improv, teachers will learn improv strategies to prompt risk-taking, acceptance of others’ ideas, and exploration of individual communication styles.


-The workshop will be highly interactive with participants activating prior knowledge first to the art of improv and then will be lead through a series of strategies that will engage their communication skills.

-We will reflect after each activity as to how these strategies can apply to their own work– in the classroom, after school, or in their community. All strategies will be accessible and be able to be applied immediately after.

Strategies will include:

-Improvised drawing

-Risk taking/failure celebrating

-Support and agreement of others ideas

-Techniques for effective discussion with argument

*All workshops longer than 90 minutes include an on-site orientation meeting.


"Performing improv with BIG is hilarious! I love to watch my friends perform funny characters in improv scenes."

Student, St. Paul’s School for Girls

"BIG was WONDERFUL! Students moved through the process of learning about Improvisation to performing student-led improv skits during the program. I was able to see them applying the skills of problem-solving, collaboration, teamwork, and perseverance. Bridget and Michael were amazing with the students. They created a climate where students felt safe to take risks in expressing themselves and were accepting of various ideas and perspectives."

Theresa, School Counselor, Seven Oaks Elementary

"My favorite part was performing for my classmates. I liked to make them laugh."

Student, Seven Oaks Elementary