(Grades 5-12)

color advance.png

Balance the action and description!

Students collaborate and share positive, fun feedback in the moment


  • An activity to help flesh out the details of a story, and balance description with action

Improv Topics:

  • Storytelling

  • Accepting Offers

  • Listening/Awareness

  • Spontaneity


  • Creativity

  • Communication 

  • Needs assessment

  • Problem-solving

  • Review


  • 5-15 minutes

Number of Players:

  • Pairs

Game Flow:

  • Divide participants into pairs 

  • Ask each pair to choose a storyteller and a guide

  • The storyteller begins to tell a story

  • Periodically the guide pauses the storyteller and says, “Color the _________” instructing the storyteller to enhance some detail. (“Color” includes any kind of description – physical details, mood, inner thoughts and feelings of the characters.)

  • When the guide is satisfied, she coaches, “Advance” and the storyteller continues with the action of the story. (“Action” consists of anything that answers the question, “What comes next?”)

  • Continue until the story is finished or time is up. 

  • Switch roles

(Note: some teachers may wish to demonstrate this activity with a volunteer before having the pairs begin. If so, it is best for the teacher to take the role of guide.)


  • Divide the participants into groups of three with two guides – one in charge of calling for color, one in charge of advancing.

  • Have the participants write their stories individually, arbitrarily calling out “color” and “advance” from the front of the room.

  • Conducted Color/Advance - Ask for three volunteers to tell a story. Assign one to be in charge of action, one in charge of physical description, and one in charge of inner emotions and thoughts. Conduct the story by pointing to each person and have him or her continue the story focusing on his or her task. (See Conducted Story, p. ________)

  • Teach students the “Color/Advance” vocabulary and allow them to color and advance your lectures. (Warning: This may transform your teaching style!)


  • Coach the guides to limit their input to saying, “color” or “advance”. They should not ask questions (e.g. “What’s inside the box?”) or offer suggestions. (E.g. “He marries the waitress, right?”)

  • Let the guides know that they can coach “color” or “advance for two reasons: to help the story or to “work” the storyteller. 

  • Remind the storyteller that part of the value of the exercise is to be able to distinguish between description and action, and that they should commit to doing one or the other, without moving on until they are coached to.

Suggested Debrief Questions:

  • Coaches, how did you decide when to call “color” and “advance”?

  • Storytellers, how did it feel to be led?

  • Was one activity easier than the other?

  • What sorts of items did you color?

  • How did the action and the description feed each other?

  • How compelling were the stories that your partners told?

  • How many of you feel like you are better storytellers than you thought?

Source: adapted by Kat Koppett from exercises by Viola Spolin and Freestyle Repertory Theatre