Extreme Personalization

Q. I see that when you choose a character to use for a particular story it is usually just one kid’s character and the details they provided for that character. I’m wondering if it would work if the details came from different characters created from different students – a mix and match. This would replicate what happens when you get details by asking the class for oral details.

A. So you are describing using one word images to create stories using the invisible characters as described in the book. One word images work well but not as well as individually drawn characters. In both, of course, the deep personalization is there, built into the story from the ground up, because we are basing the stories on the characters and not target language as in classic TPRS stories, but there is always noticeably more punch when kids draw their own invisible characters and provide a back story with it. We are finding that the personalization that used to happen when asking a story from targets with lots of student input into the details is not as central in stories with the Invisibles. It’s not needed. We don’t need to work so hard to get the personalization piece going, not nearly as hard as when we used to work from targets. Now, the personalization piece comes in nice and strong with the image. The students are much more content to listen to the story unfolding from the image without their teacher hounding them for details. This is worth repeating. The students are much more content to listen to the story unfolding from the image when their teacher doesn’t hound them for details. Class becomes more focused on the message, which is often compelling. The kids aren’t worried about appearing involved. They are involved. It’s not a game of “grade me” anymore.

Q. Why do you think that the individually created characters are better?

A. Not better. Just different. It is because we are finding that some individually created student characters function as masks underneath which the kids can express themselves to others with no one being the wiser for it. With one word images that doesn’t happen. Not much of the magic is lost, actually, since one word image generated Invisibles stories are really strong stories, but a little. The students, visibly or not, really want to know about individually created characters drawn by a classmate. I have seen in their eyes penetrating looks at the character that suggest that they are looking beyond the character at the character’s creator. This includes the back story that the individual students create for use with their characters. It is a very personal kind of process when this happens and gives rise to a new definition of the term “personalization” in a TPRS/CI classroom. I would call it “extreme personalization”. It is the individuality of the students’ imaginations that, to me, is the real magic that we find in working with the Invisibles.

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