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The importance of "improvising" in a writing consultation

Improv comedy is a spontaneous performance without any scripts preparated beforehand. The first rule of improv is to AGREE i.e. to say "yes" to whatever happens. If someone says "There is a train coming towards us" and I say, without thinking much, "What train? I don't see a train", then the only options remaining are to either end the scene or to argue about whether there is a train or not; neither of these options is entertaining for the audience to watch. The issue with my response was that it was not saying "yes" to what was said. If I had instead said "The train will hit us if we don't move", then I have not only said "yes" but also built on top of what was said. This idea of accepting what has been said and then building on it with new information is a key idea in improvisation called the "Yes-And" principle.

Improvisation is needed in a peer-tutoring session since it is not possible to plan out all of the details about the session in advance. The client may not even be sure of what they want to focus on, and the tutor must be able to adapt to the changing needs of their client. Further, since peer-tutoring essentially involves making arguments for what we think the client should do. For the client to accept these suggestions, we need to be able to collaborate with them. The "Yes-And" principle can help us build such a collaboration. In peer-tutoring, this involves observing the reality that is being set by the client and making sure that the provided suggestions are "agreeing" with the set reality.

There are several opportunities for "yes-and"ing the client. The first step would be to check what the client is asking for and focusing on these during the session. We could also check how the client is responding to our suggestions. If they look confused, we could provide more explanation. If they get defensive, it might be a good idea to try an alternate approach or even just move on to the next topic. If the client says that they are focusing on the content and have a rough draft ready, it might not be a good idea to focus on the grammar aspects of the paper.

In short, "yes-and"ing the client involves listening to what the client is saying and observing their responses to decide our approach. The success of an improv performance depends on how well the actors build off of each other's responses. The same is true in case of a writing session as well; a successful consultation is one where the client is finding value in our suggestions and enthusiastically participating in the discussion.

A peer-tutoring session is a lot like an improv performance, so it is important to accept the reality set by the client and make suggestions to build on it. This makes the session more engaging, which is essential for a successful consultation.

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