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Warm-up exercise: Elephant walk

This warm-up exercise is simple, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need – a simple but fun warm-up that makes students wake up and move. This exercise is also quiet – you are not allowed to talk! It is a great way for students to practice individual mime and painting skills in a low pressure environment, as the whole group moves at the same time.

Elephant Walk is great for students of any skill level. Below are some adaptation ideas for more advanced learners. It is also useful to help your students relax and be stupid together, as well as to help you get to know your students better. You will be able to assess their basic effort and risk-taking skills. How far are they willing to go from their comfort zone? Try and find out.


  • Ask students to lie down in the room, sitting in a neutral position (feet on the floor, hands next to each other). At your suggestion, students will walk around the room at a medium to slow pace.
  • Call an animal for students to portray through their movements as they travel around the room. When they hear the animal, they must move immediately (and in silence) as they think the animal would. Choose an animal that has the potential for different levels and / or speeds of movement, such as an elephant, giraffe, snake, crab, lion, gazelle, peacock, parrot – whatever you think will challenge your students! Encourage students to use their whole body and facial expressions to portray the animal.
  • Shout “freeze!” Each student must freeze on the spot in a solo painting until you shout the next animal. At that point, students will start moving around the room like the new animal until you call it “freezing.”
  • Repeat as many times as you want with different animals.
  • Discuss: What was the easiest part of this warm-up exercise? What was the most difficult? Which animal did you like the most to portray? Why?

Alternative: Ask students to move around the room as if they were involved in various sports activities, such as skiing, skating, boating, swimming (there are many different varieties), dancing (again, there are many varieties to choose from), bob , triple jump or strong walk. Just make sure all your moves are “contactless” if you use football as an incentive!

For advanced theater students: Ask students to walk around the room in a “human” style, but using the animal / sports indication as a guide to inform their human character. It might walk like an elephant or slide like a snake. How can I make my movements more subtle and nuanced, but still different from the way I normally go?

You can also use the article Why you have to repeat in the skin of your character as inspiration for an alternate version of this exercise. Ask students to walk around the room with the shoes they are currently wearing (or have them take off their shoes if they wish), but to use various shoe cues, such as sneakers, high heels, slippers, slippers. ballet flats, scuba boots, cowboy boots or tap shoes. How can students represent a different style of shoe through their movements? How does the shoe prompt inform the rest of your body movements?

Click here for a free reflection for your students.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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