Lizette Liebold recently publicly said this about the Invisibles:
…the Invisibles are a creative way to develop characters but not anything earth-shattering….
I disagree, but privately. However, Tina, with whom I wrote the book on the Invisibles (it would not exist without her) took a more expressive stance on that comment. Here it is:
…I feel that for the good of the order I should respond to your comments as they are talking about Ben Slavic and his new book which I have been extensively involved in for the past year.
You write, “The Invisibles are a creative way to develop characters but not anything earth-shattering.”
I wonder if you have read the book, whose first edition was called TPRS – The Easy Way, and tried the system described therein, and then come to this conclusion, or if you are coming to that conclusion in other ways. Because the Invisibles, to me, are much more than just the characters. It is a system that has enabled me and others to churn out easier, more compelling stories that are the most fun I have ever had as a world language teacher. I do not say that lightly. There is not much that I say lightly, actually. But I can say with great certainty that working with Ben has shifted my teaching in many ways, some very visible and others more subtle, more on the level of feelings and energy.
l do know that the Invisibles changed a good deal for me:
I now tell more stories, whereas before I found story creation using targets and circling to be more taxing emotionally and energetically. I feel that I am truly co-creating with the kids and not working hard to get them invested in the story. Perhaps not everyone finds it emotionally taxing to spin stories out of thin air, but I did. Even though my stories were serviceable, and I was proud of my teaching, and smiles were had, it took a lot out of me. Now I feel super-confident starting stories with their characters.
My kids’ eyes are sparklier. They lean into the story more. They just enjoy class more, with these adorable stories. They sense, I think, that my only agenda is to be creative with them, to play with their ideas, to give their characters a home.
My students are enjoying class and their freewrites show evidence of a great deal of language acquisition. They are developing a deep and global competence, and are able to create with the language in creative ways in my first- and second-year classes.
The stories are just more like real stories. I would venture to even say that they have a “literary” quality. They are unique, and often surprisingly-deep, and well-loved and memorable. They span a range of emotions, not just silly/funny/weird/bizarre. Maybe other TPRS teachers get a wider range than that, but for me, for nine years, I could hit that “funny/weird” note with relative consistency but I did not often get stories that had other tones.
For those who are willing to give them a real honest try, I predict loads of fun. And if you have any questions about them, mechanics of implementing the artwork, or Ben’s new classroom jobs, or the literacy work, or the questioning sequences that build the class-created characters, or the levels of questioning that build the stories, please feel free to email me because I truly love sharing. Or ask to join the CI Liftoff Facebook group. There has been a lot of discussion on there recently about both Story Listening and the Invisibles, among people who are trying them in their classrooms. The discussion is focused around giving these ideas a try, not debating their merits. So if you are interested in getting down to brass tacks and learning about these ideas, please contact me through email or Facebook….