How to Play I am a Tree

How to Play I am a Tree

Whether or not we are aware of it, most of us have traumatized youth in our classrooms.  While teaching at San Pasqual Academy, a residential high school for foster youth, many of my students had experienced trauma.  In an effort to learn how to best support this special population of students, I began reading books about trauma.  As I read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. I learned that the development of empathy, relationships, and healing can be supported through participation in improvisation activities. I remembered the improv games the staff at Camp Whispering Oaks used to play to entertain the girls during opening campfires and began to mix them into my play time between our daily circles and classwork.

I am a Tree is one of the games we played. To lighten things up after the stress of the election, I taught this game to my seventh-grade English Learners (EL) last week.  The seventh-grade performances induced even more giggles than the high school versions!  In this picture, the students are pretending to be a curb, a snail crawling on the curb, and a shoe stepping on the snail.  To help my EL students, stressed the sentence frames and made sure that they worked together to help the newcomers translate their ideas into English.

I hope you have a few minutes to play I am a Tree with your students!  Please share photos in the Teachers vs Zombies Facebook Group and/or share on social media using the hashtag #tvszed and tagging @npriester. I look forward to sharing your experiences with others!

I am a Tree

Learning Target:

  • Students develop creativity and awareness of relationships between items


  • Students create a scene by becoming three related items

Game Goal:

  • Think of an item to add to the scene


  • A stage area–the front of the room is an easy choice


  • None


  • 8-10 minutes (Remember, “Stop while they’re having fun!”)


  1. Ask Student A to stand on the stage in the shape of a tree and say, “I am a tree.”
  2. Ask Student B to stand on the stage in the shape of an apple with her arms touching the branch of a tree and say, “I am an apple hanging from the tree.”
  3. Ask Student C to stand on hands and knees as a dog with a lifted leg and say, “I am a dog peeing on the tree.” (Or, something more age-appropriate for your students!)
  4. Tell Student A (the tree) to say, “I am leaving, and I am taking the dog with me” as she and Student C (the dog) leave the stage.
  5. Ask student B (the apple) to say, “I am an apple.”
  6. Ask for a volunteer student to take the stage. This student announces his role and becomes part of the scene.
  7. Ask another volunteer to join the scene.
  8. When three people are in the scene, the one who has been on stage the longest, leaves and the activity repeats.

Sentence Frames:

  1. I am a _____.
  2. I am a _____.
  3. I am a _____.
  4. I am leaving, and I am taking the _____ with me.
  5. I am a _____….

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