From ‘101 Drama Games and Activities’

Age: 7 to adult
Players: Pairs, Whole Class
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skills: Mime and Movement, Speaking and Listening, Cooperation

Quickly generate repeating actions and sounds or words

We’ve all seen GIFs before – they’re all over social media. It occurs to me that one of the drama games I’ve been playing for donkey’s years should not be called ‘Essence Machine’ any more, but GIF Machine! GIF usually stands for the rather boring ‘Graphics Interchange Format’ but in this game, it could stand for ‘Glitzy Instant Fun’ or maybe ‘Groovy Image Factory’.

It’s halfway between a still image (freeze-frame) and an improvisation, but like a GIF, it repeats over and over. There are many ways you can play the game.


Announce a phrase, such as ‘I don’t believe it!‘ , ‘You’re doing an amazing job‘, ‘Please, leave me alone!’ or ‘Get your act together!’ Give the pairs 30 seconds to work out repeating actions and words. One of them speaks the phrase and the other reacts (very) dramatically. They should both move and react to each other, and the action should repeat over and over, just like a GIF and should be very short, like a tiny film clip. Ask some of the pairs to show their work and see how many different ideas have been generated.

Instead of phrases, pairs can come up with a short repeating movement and sound (or words) to illustrate a well-known proverb, such as ‘The early bird catches the worm’ or ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth’.

Whole Class

Once the pairs have got the idea, you can move onto the GIF Machine itself. This time, stand in a circle and explain that the group is going to create a ‘machine’ out of themselves. Announce a theme (see ideas below) then one person at a time steps into the space to begin a repeating movement and words or sounds . As other people step into the circle they should try to relate to players who are already in the space, so that a linked ‘machine’ with repetitive actions is built up. This time they can be people or objects which move.

For example, if the theme is “shopping” the first participant could mime taking money out of a purse to give to a shopkeeper, whilst saying “I’ll have two of those, please.” The next person could join the action by becoming the shopkeeper and saying ‘Shall I wrap them for you?’ Not everybody needs to be directly related; other players could be a cleaner in the shopping mall, a shoplifter, a lost child, an escalator and so on.

You may find that everybody wants to join in the activity, although be careful not to let it go on for too long or get too unwieldy. People who start off the game may soon get tired making their movements!

Director’s Tip

Once the machine is set up, you can freeze the action with a clap of the hands. Next, press an invisible button to start the machine again in slow-motion (movements and words/sounds). Stop it again and press another button which will make the machine move twice as fast.


This can definitely be played online (on Zoom for example). Instead of pairs, have everyone make their movements at once. For the machine, they could practice them in breakout rooms or people can add their ideas one at a time in the main session.


  • Book
  • Emotion
  • Film
  • Folk tale
  • Football match
  • Halloween
  • Historic event
  • Hospital
  • Job Centre
  • Medieval Castle
  • Poem
  • Pirate ship
  • Restaurant
  • Save the Earth
  • School
  • A machine that actually makes something, like chocolate biscuits, school dinners or weather conditions

  • Want to try this game out? We play lots of games in our monthly Zoom Meetings which come as part of The Inspiring Drama Teacher course. We often come up with new ideas between us!

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