Invention Spelling Bee

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"Invention Spelling Bee" is an exercise that focuses on spontaneity and group-mind. It's a wonderful warm up.

Format

  • Improvisers make a tight circle around the initial leader of the exercise. The only instruction given is the following: "When I point to you, give me a letter."
  • Point to a handful of improvisers, collecting enough letters for a newly-invented word. Perhaps 5 or 6 will do for your first one.
  • When you've got enough letters, point to someone and ask them to pronounce the word that has just been invented by the group.
  • Have a few people repeat the word, letting everybody remember it
  • From here on out, there is no regimented format for the game. Continue pointing to individual people and ask them questions about this word that may or may not be asked in a spelling bee.
  • Once you have asked what you feel is enough questions, point to someone and ask them to spell the word again. This person then replaces the leader in the middle of the circle, and the exercise begins anew.

Example

Letters

  • T
  • U
  • O
  • O
  • H
  • R
  • T

Questions

Each question, like the letters, is addressed to a different person.

  • "What word did we just spell?"
    • "Tuoohrt"
  • "What part of speech is this word?
    • "An adjective."
  • "What is the definition of 'Tuoohrt'?"
    • "Painstakingly slow."
  • "Use 'Tuoohrt' in a sentence."
    • I was enraged by the tuoohrt fashion in which my computer downloaded the software."
  • "Who was the first person to use this word in all of history?"
    • "Frank Ocean."
  • "What were the circumstances in which Frank Ocean used this word?"
    • "His limo driver was being annoying and not driving fast enough, so he shouted "Stop driving so tuoohrt!"
  • "How do you spell the word?"
    • "T U O O H R T"
  • Reset the game.

Tips

  • It is, of course, no problem at all if the word is not re-spelled exactly as it was the first time.
  • Don't limit yourself to the questions given in the example.
  • Encourage inhibition in this game. Any answer to any question is correct.
  • The first leader may instruct at the very top of the exercise "I am the facilitator, and you are the experts. That's all you have to know. When I point to you, give me a letter." This sets a nice tone.

Other info

This exercise was developed by New York-based improviser Duncan Gregory while still a student in the ComedySportz Los Angeles High School League. It's become a favorite of Dangerbox, one of NYU's longform improv ensembles.

See also