The “Yes, And…” rule is an improvisational comedy rule that suggests “a participant should accept what another participant has stated (‘yes’) and then expand on that line of thinking (‘and’).”
This rule is not only important in drama class, but you might find that it’s paramount in any learning environment.
In an improv class, a “Yes, And…” exercise may go something like this:
- Participant One: “You brought your pet dinosaur to school, again?”
- Participant Two: “Yes! And he forgot to pack his lunch. Do you have any extra lunch money?”
- Participant One: “Yep, and I even have an extra snack packed. But I hear dinosaurs don’t like yogurt…”
- And so on…
If Participant Two responded with “No, dinosaurs are extinct!” the game would be over pretty quickly. The same goes for a brainstorming exercise, group project, or interactive lesson.
If we meet every idea or contribution with a “no,” students are going to be much less likely to feel comfortable contributing and new ideas can’t be generated. If we teach students to be judgemental toward differing ideas and points of view, we’re teaching them to be short-sighted.
Applying the “Yes, And…” rule to the classroom is an easy way to teach effective brainstorming, communication, idea sharing, and positive, nonjudgemental thinking.
Accept & Collaborate
By saying “yes,” we are accepting the ideas and realities of others and agreeing to a collaborative process. We are showing the other learners that we are willing to affirm their realities, and making the classroom a safe place to share ideas.
Saying “yes” is not just about talking– it’s about listening. We are taking the time to be nonjudgmental listeners. If we approach every new idea as a wrong one, we are not leaving a path open for learning new perspectives, challenging our own ideas and biases, and allowing room for development in our learning.
Brainstorming is known as “nonjudgmental ideation,” which is what “Yes, And…” is all about: suspending judgment long enough to create new ideas. We brainstorm all the time in the classroom and workplace. It’s what allows for development, ingenuity, and progress. Discouraging “no” from the brainstorming environment makes it a safe space to fail. It allows students to work together, to open their minds to new possibilities, and to confidently speak up. That’s where true learning happens.
Expand & Edit
“Yes, And…” isn’t about accepting an idea and leaving it at that. We’d get nowhere just willy-nilly accepting every idea as the right idea. This practice is about accepting an idea and building upon it. It’s about affirmation and expansion.
The expansion process is about editing and growing an idea. Every great idea, invention, or business started from a smaller or different idea. It could have been a small idea or a wrong idea, but it was accepted and then built upon or morphed into something else.
We cannot build upon, change, or improve an idea if we remain closed off to any thought that doesn’t mesh with our own or we didn’t come up with ourselves. No great idea or learning experience started with a hard “no.”