Using the Space in One Word Images

In working with one word images, it is useful to imagine that we are sculpting the character out of invisible “clay” in the space in front of the students. We have to be very specific about the space and its boundaries there in front of the students. The more specific we can be, the more we can imagine the invisible clay, and the more reality and fun we can bring to the process.

We use the space in the following ways:

  1. We “place” the object into the space when it is first established. We then gesture knowingly with our hands and eyes to the empty space. This begins the creative process. As more details about it accumulate, the group begins to “see” it in our mind’s eye, there, invisible, taking up airspace in front of the class.
  2. We walk around the object, running our eyes over its form, looking at it almost as if it were real, mustering a look of wonder and marveling at the fact that a chicken or a canoe or a glove or a watermelon is actually IN THE SPACE with us. Of course doing this will feel odd to us at first, but no less odd than the feeling of having 30-plus students stare at us, uninvolved for an entire class period, as we often did in the past.
  3. Once details of the size of the object are established, we crouch down to peer at the teeny-tiny object, or we back up and run our eyes over the hulking invisible contours of a gigantic object. We can lean back as we gaze upon the massive size of a huge object, for added effect, or we can coo lovingly at the adorableness of the tiny object as we marvel at its tininess and cuteness.
  4. We can “pick up” a tiny object and place it on a chair or stool, or we can try to move a large object, but struggle and fail due to its bulk, to comic effect. We don’t have to go overboard with this. There is no need to go outside of our comfort zone, but it helps the students immensely in the language creation process if we help them imagine the size of the object as a first step in building it in that space right there in front of them.
  5. Whatever we do, we must understand that the purpose of doing this is to spark language, and spark language it does, because kids love being called into the realm of their imaginations in schools, where so little time is given to the world of imagination.

Those who teach high school students may be thinking, “I can’t do that with my students.” But if a culture of trust and imagination have been built from the beginning of the year, with proper implementation of the Classroom Rules, it is quite possible. We have many examples of high school teachers making the Invisibles work, notably Scotty Jimenez in Mississippi, Elena Overvold in Oregon, Ryan Campbell in Washington, and Mike Peto in North Carolina. Searching those names on YouTube or in the CI Liftoff Facebook group should provide some examples of Invisibles created with high school students.

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