This is a beefed up repost of an article from last week. It got mixed in with a lot of other posts and may have been overlooked originally (the queue is jammed again).
In my opinion this Invisibles idea is the very best thing I have seen in TPRS/CI instruction for years. It may not work with high school kids. That depends on how much the joy has been ripped out of their hearts at this point in their lives. It is a big middle school winner – really big at the sixth grade level, not so much at the seventh grade level, and even less at the eighth grade level as those kids (even eighth graders!) are now starting to show signs of a kind of group depression as things get worse in our schools as a result of all the robots running our schools now, gumming things up, sucking all the joy out of education.
My prayer is that this idea work at all levels. Why? Because it jump starts stories. The Matava/Tripp scripts are great when I don’t feel like teaching, they are always great really, but when you start a class with an invisible creature who lives in your classroom and has been created, drawn, described (in English) by your students, you will see something, some higher form of energy, that you have never seen before. At least this is my own experience with them.
All you have to do is say, instead of “Class, there was a (boy/girl!”), “Class, there was a (one of the Invisibles from that class) and watch the energy ratchet up in that moment by quite a bit. Right there the energy changes. Then (1) get some details on the character from its creator (they wrote all those details like age, where they live, etc. on their drawing), then (2) ask where? and (3) with whom? and then (4) ask the class for a problem and then bam! you are off and running!
I’m working on getting the links below live (currently having trouble with them) and when they are live you will see what I mean about the kids’ creations of the images and descriptions of their characters:
ANY story you start with such creatures – as long as that particular class has created them – will blow your mind AND it sets off big class competitions for the coolest characters in the hallways. Kids can be really competitive about this. Of course, I have my own favorite characters (Mr. Lintus Lint and Mint Green Tea get my “Best of Show” vote.) It’s also cool that the kids sometimes make, in art class or at home, little clay painted figurines of their characters. I have two such figurines on my desk, one of Aqua Teddy and the other of Mint Green Tea and I never want to lose them. They are works of art. This whole thing gets the kids totally into the creation of their characters and we ride that level of involvement to effortless wonderful stories every day.
So this is the Invisibles idea. Do it. You’re nuts if you don’t.
- Start the story with a character that the kids have created who lives in the classroom but is invisible to all. Add all sorts of details. If you have no character make one up at the start of the story. Get details like does he wear glasses? How many eyes does he have?
- If you have any of those little portable whiteboards, you can invite the kids to invent characters on the spot by simply drawing them, then lining them up on the whiteboard and having a discussion about which character should be in the story that day.
- Today the very small spider “Vampspooder” (German pronunciation – lots of kids from Germany in that class) won out over “BeethovenDuck” and Chicken Bok Bok Bok and a number of other entries. I love Vampspooder. I love the look of pride on the face of the kid in class who invented him. I love the spider’s name – Vampspooder. I can’t wait to see where the story with Vampspooder goes. But I can say with authority that there is a brand new level of involvement in this class with Vampspooder than just about anything I can remember in TPRS over all the years I have been doing it. Scripts generate high level interest home run stories at times; that level of story is more common with this Invisibles idea. It’s like I found a secret key or something. I know why. It’s because the kids created Vampspooder and all the other “invisibles” themselves. That’s the difference.
- I once told a class that another class had them beat on quality of characters. They took my light hearted comment with the utmost seriousness and began thinking of new characters during SSR. As soon as the reading period was over they dashed for the mini white boards and in minutes I had all their new white boards leaned up against the big white board and class took off from there. The class was on fire with interest and fun because they were about to make up a story (no script this time) about one of their own class characters.
- Today I told this class that another class had them beat on quality of characters. They took my light hearted comment with the utmost seriousness and even thought of their new characters during SSR. As soon as the reading period was over they dashed for the mini white boards and in minutes I had all their new white boards leaned up against the big white board and class took off from there. The class was on fire with interest and fun because they were about to make up a story (no script this time) about one of their own class characters.
- Q. Does the very beginning of invisible character creation start like a One Word Image? Can you reveal the initial steps to Invisible characters? You said the description was in English…I can sense the excitement…but need to know how you start it up.A. Basically, since the kids have (along with their drawings and clay models) their lists of of their Invisibles’ ages, where they live, etc. (I need to get those links up to m students’ characters so you can see), it becomes an exercise in negotiating the intent/meaning of the invisible’s creator. Like in that sixth grade class I asked how old Lintus Lint was and the creator of that creature just referred me to the drawing where it clearly said that he is 142 years old. The girl acted like I should have known that. So we don’t so much do a One Word Image thing to start the class off because it can take too long with too many details coming in and we’ve all been down that road. We just get a few details and then ask where and with whom as described above and try as hard and as we can to get to the problem (something new with me that I have found is important), which is usually when the hook gets put into the proceedings.
Here are a few that I took pics of today, Squanky and Aqua Teddy and Mint Green Tea:
For more (previous articles on this topic), see: