3 More Easy Improv Warm-ups for Speaking Classes

Last month, I wrote about four simple, silly improv warmups to get students active and engaged. This month, I’d like to continue with three more: Diddy-Diddy-Dum, Energy Circle, and Five Things.

All three games are low stakes and noncompetitive. There’s no penalty for mistakes—making mistakes is part of the fun!

For each game, the face-to-face rules are given, followed by instructions on how to adapt them to the online environment.

1. Diddy-Diddy-Dum!

This fast-paced warm-up game takes place in a circle. All students clap their hands at a medium pace, and words are said to a rhythm (sound file below). On the first beat, the first player calls out a word. On the third beat, the player after them in the circle calls out a different word. There’s no need for the words to be related—and it’s funnier if they’re not. Words can be any part of speech and any topic. For instance, it could be an emotion, a kind of food, a place, an action, or an animal. The only important thing is for students to shout out a word on the beat.

After the first four beats, the entire class repeats the first word on the first beat, the second word on the second beat, and “diddy-diddy-dum” on the third and fourth beats.

The game continues around the circle, this time starting with the second person. The game is finished when everyone in the circle has started the sequence.

Player 1: Cat!
Player 2: Purse!
All Players: Cat! Purse! Diddy-diddy-dum!
Player 2: Scary!
Player 3: Giraffe!
All Players: Scary! Giraffe! Diddy-diddy-dum!
Player 3: Eat…

Here is a recording of the game:


Online, things are a little different. First, it can be difficult for students to know who’s next, so have a digital document available with the order in which they should participate. Second, students should speak enthusiastically but not shout, since they are likely around other people at home. Finally, the time lag that occurs on video platforms may make for some overlap when all players repeat the words. For that reason, you may have Player 1 give the first word, Player 2 the second, and Player 3 the “chorus.” Clapping may also be asynchronous, but if you leave it out, students should still try to say the words in rhythm.

Player 1:  Cow!
Player 2: Ouch!
Player 3: Cow! Ouch! Diddy-diddy-dum!

2. Energy Circle

Another fun, easy warm-up is the energy circle. In this game, players stand in a circle. The first player shows an emotion with a sound (or word) and gesture. The next player makes the same sound and gesture, but a little more intensely. Play continues as each person’s sound and gesture become gradually bigger and bigger. When the second player is reached again, that player finishes with the biggest emotional delivery, then starts a new emotion that goes around the circle getting bigger and bigger. Play continues until everyone has started a new emotion.


  • Player 1 giggles quietly and wiggles their fingers. This emotion is intensified until the final player laughs hysterically and waves their arms.
  • Player 2 sniffles, blotting their tears with imaginary tissue. The emotion is intensified until the final player sobs while wiping their face with an imaginary towel.
  • Player 3 whispers, “Yes!” and jumps an inch off the floor. The emotion is intensified until the final player shouts, “YES!!!” and jumps as high as possible.

Here is a short video example of this game from Drama Menu:

Online, there are clear disadvantages to having your students yell and jump up and down at their computers! Most students live with family or roommates, so rather than raising the emotional volume, try making each delivery slower, faster, or quieter. It’s also possible to intensify emotions without raising the volume by using intonation, gestures, and facial expressions.

3. Five Things

The rules for this game are simple: One player challenges another to name five things in an unusual category. As they list each item, the group calls out the number of the example. Once the player completes their list, they call on any other student to make their own list in a new category. This game is more challenging than Diddy-Diddy-Dum because the answers are more specific; however, answering quickly is more important than answering with a “good” answer. In fact, students should feel free to shout out silly answers, as shown in the following example.

Examples of Challenges

  • Five things you would buy if you won the lottery
  • Five weird ice cream flavors
  • Five things you would never say to a teacher
  • Five imaginary holidays

Avoid knowledge-based categories, such as “five American presidents”; students should be able to answer questions based on their imaginations. The game is finished when everyone has listed five things.

Model the activity first and give examples to show what kind of questions and answers are appropriate.

Player 1: Jo, name five things you wouldn’t eat even if someone paid you $100.
Jo: A worm.
All Players: One!
Jo: A live bird.
All Players: Two!
Jo: Pencils.
All Players: Three!
Jo: A newspaper.
All Players: Four!
Jo: Uh—uh—a sidewalk.
All Players: Five!
Jo: Céline, name five presents that an elephant would like for its birthday.
Céline: A giant bathtub…

Online, this game works in the same way as it does in person. Below is a video of a variation of this game from Happier Valley Comedy. Instead of five things, they list seven things—which increases the difficulty—but otherwise, the rules are the same.

What warm-up activities do you use in your classes? Please share in the comments below!

About A. C. Kemp

A. C. Kemp
A. C. Kemp has been a lecturer in English language studies at MIT since 2007. She has a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Massachusetts/Boston. A. C. has also presented extensively on teaching strategies for vocabulary acquisition. Since 2002, she has been the director of Slang City, a website devoted to American slang and colloquial language. She also has a strong interest in ITA training, for which she created the User-Friendly Classroom Video Series in 2016.
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