Getting the Problem

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21 thoughts on “Getting the Problem”

  1. I need to say that after reading the new version of the Invisibles book, I just started preparing all my classes! The first half of this year we’ve done all targeted stories and, I agree. I’ve felt handcuffed with the structures although I didn’t realize it until after reading this book. So, the first day of the second semester (yesterday), right after their mid-terms, I changed a lot of things. I implemented the new and improved Interpersonal communication rubric and used Tina’s wonderful quote. I told them “I am writing your grades on my heart”. They all smiled and I felt a special bond in that moment with my kids. I also see that investing a couple minutes in English really made a difference that I’ve never tried before.
    Anyway, I’ve done five different OWI’s between yesterday and today with each class. The artist has a large, clear picture drawn which we will use during our story. At the end of class, I had kids write in English a possible issue/problem/conflict of the character we made. During this time, I actually saw a huge difference in kids demeanor. I thought they were engaged before, but the level of engagement was much, much higher. Also, I found that I became more confident with each class. In the book, a comment really stuck with me which said “90% of the human experience is visual”. I found that the more dramatic I was with my actions, the more the kids were engaged.

    So, here are the names of the five characters (one per class) and the problem that I have chosen which will lead to our first Non-targeted story next class!

    1. Enrique, the Melon 3 1/2 = He is red and white on the outside and green on the inside. He’s sad because no one wants to eat him because he looks different from the other melons. (The truth is that he’s very sweet inside.)

    2. Hummus, chickpea #24 = He’s one of 27 chickpeas but he’s enormous and the others are very small. The other chickpeas think he’s too big and doesn’t fit in so he’s confused and feels like an outcast.

    3. Sneezy hands, the brick = He’s very dirty and upset because he feels useless. No one wants to use him for anything.

    4. Hector, the jalopeño = He’s a pink jalopeño with blue spots. He’s in love a female jalopeño but her father does not approve because of his blue spots.

    5. Dayna the donut = She’s mad because she doesn’t have sprinkles like her friends. No one wants to buy her because she has not sprinkles.

    I’m hoping for interesting stories tomorrow! We’ll see.

    1. WOW Keri, I am sure you can see how these kids transmit their feelings of belonging through their characters. I choose my characters while in class but there is no TRUE way to do this. Each person has their style. I describe the character that I am most interested in. You can use a doc camera as well.

      1. I was surprised myself with the depth of the problems that the kids came up with. I think that’s great that you’re able to choose the character right there in class. I am such a planner that this is hard for me. Maybe I’ll get there one day, but right now I feel that I need that crutch.

        1. I think that both qualities are good to let students feel comfortable. I teach gifted students who are well accustomed to structure and being told what to do. They are also used to super detailed instructions. Though, in my limited experience, students feel comfortable with my routines and structures of non-planning. I splash in some treats like movietalk etc…

          Allowing time for non-planning frees up an opportunity for students to talk about themselves AND for you to take details from more students during storyasking.

    2. I’m ready to have my kids move from straight OWI to developing problems with characters. Keri, your description on how you’re doing it is very helpful.

      1. Glad I could help a bit, Sean. I’m looking forward to having my kids draw their own invisibles but I’m probably going to do at least one other OWI first since I’ve only done one so far.

  2. Spinning this positive Ben, what was GOOD about the Realm was the world building. Developing good questions about the setting of our invisibles can also be compelling. Something to think about.

  3. Yes. The thing is back then I didn’t have the experience or the knowledge that the Realm depended so much more on intensely developing the personalities of the bakers and trolls and knights and all those characters. I just tried to make up a story about “a baker” or “a troll” under a bridge. Maybe now with this new knowledge there will be a remake of the Realm, twelve years after the original! If we fall in love with our bakers and the other characters in the Realm because of the way they look, their back stories, their dominant emotions, etc. and if those characters are really, as happens with the Invisibles, subtle extensions of the personalities of the students who create them, it could become very interesting very fast. I will speak with Tina about it.

  4. I noticed that when I did my first “invisibles” story with my 6th grade and tried to stick to the questions, the kids tried to add other details like where the invisible lived, etc and other details that connected to past stories.

    For people that do the invisibles, the non targeted stories, do you let the students add details like this whenever? Or do you still to the questions? I’m so accustomed to keeping the story in bounds, controlling it. Don’t know HOW much to let go of…

    1. Annemarie, I had students write their details on the back of their drawing. You can let them write in 2-3 extra details…. or just 1 of their choice. I think that this creates more ownership of the character. Not only that I think that this is what NT is about: letting go and have students advocate/communitcate their social and emotional needs. The invisibles can do it.
      How do I do this?
      I ask clarifying questions in the moment. For example, I ask the creator of the invisible: “What kind of pizza do they like?” Here you are indirectly asking the student a PQA question via the invisible. It is subtle and my more shy students respond much better. Another Ex: If they forgot to put in a problem, I tell the class “Penny B. the cat has a problem.” Then I ask the student: ” __student name__ what is her problem?” Then I relay back to the class in L2.

  5. Annemarie it depends on how simple you want things to be. We all know that too many details mess things up, but saying no to all their great ideas messes things up to. In this new work with the Invisibles, I err on the side of few details and going narrow and deep with them.

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I too love when one class knits their character together with an Invisible/OWI from another class. Annoying Orange was afraid that Barry la Berenjena (the Eggplant) was going to squeeze it with his one little green hand, that it bit him, and that’s why the inside of Annoying Orange’s mouth is purple – from biting into the eggplant. Who knew?
    This connection happened when a kid was looking at the wall of OWIs (I have 12 posted right now, one for each of the groups I teach), and saw Annoying Orange’s purple mouth near Barry the Eggplant…
    BTW the Language Arts facilitator came into my classroom and LOVED the idea of the OWIs/Invisibles for creating hi-interest language prompting anchors for young children…talk about finding power in your words!

  7. I did my first two Non-targeted stories yesterday with the OWI’s each class created the day before. They actually went extremely well. The story was much richer than our previous targeted stories. I really did my best to make them bond with the character they created as we started class to review it. Then as I began the story I asked simple questions like age, and family. In the class that created “Enrique, the Melon 3 1/2″, we immediately discovered that this poor 3 1/2 year old baby melon has no family. He had a mom but not anymore”. That made the whole class really feel for him and felt bad and thought it was just awful that no one liked him just because the color of his skin was different from the other melons. The story just took off from there.

    Unfortunately, for me, I pre-planned the entire story line although I was open to changes along the way. I know this defeats the purpose of “no planning” but I am hoping that as I get used to doing more stories, I will not need to do this anymore as it was very time consuming to do this for five classes! However, I was much more confident with these notecards in my hands. I took Tina’s advice and “told” most of the story as opposed to “asking” much. I asked a few details but not nearly as many as I am used to asking. The story lasted about 25 minutes which was perfect. It wasn’t as drawn out as my targeted stories are. It was a huge success!!

    1. Keri you wrote, “The story lasted about 25 minutes which was perfect. It wasn’t as drawn out as my targeted stories are. It was a huge success!!”

      You are already mastering it! For me it is the sequence that I should have in hand as a note card. That is a good idea to just get a feel for it. Also the story driver should cue you for these questioning steps along the way.

  8. I have one concern. Although the class was clearly much more engaged in this first OWI story, I am hoping that this continues. Does anyone feel that doing a story (whether it be from OWI or Invisibles) every three or four classes throughout the year becomes too predictable for the students? I really love the thought of not planning much-especially since I even tend to overplan for my classes! Right now the plan I have in my mind is this:
    Day One-we tell a story
    Day Two-we read and review the story with Reading Options
    Day Three- we continue a bit more with the reading and do some different activities and games
    (Possibly Day Four we could do Story Listening, Movie Talk, or something to break it up a bit…)

    By the way, I have 84 minute classes that meet every other day.

    Does anyone do stories as often as this? Is this too often or just right? I feel that this three-four day predictable pattern may end up boring the kids. But, maybe not. I’m just curious.

    Thank you so much. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    1. I had trouble because I had the same sequence as you describe. It really has to do with the group. For me, I have added SL once a week. What can also work is breaking up that day two with one of your activities like Special Chair. Add to the above discussing the artist work. I do that at the end of making the story or the beginning of DAY TWO. Sometimes my artists do not finish in time. on day 1.

  9. Keri when I developed the Invisibles there was a sense from the kids that they always wanted to do a story about “their ” characters. (We hadn’t at that point started using OWI in New Delhi – last winter – until Kathrin Shectman thought of doing it this past summer in France, which made me have to re-write my book. Thanks, Kathrin! smiley face here).

    So no we never got predictable. The routine would not cause the kids to get bored, in my view. I don’t think it’s about the routine. I think it’s about the content. I do think that individually created characters will get you a bit more interest, because then you can’t even plan, the inventor of the character is the boss in the story.

    Two years ago you were very strong on T1 and very much in command of that approach. I remember the video you sent to us – others in the group might also remember – strong T1 work, very strong. Now we spring the concept of T2/NT on you and you have dipped your toes in the water and are swimming around in the shallow end. Once you allow the kids more say in the discussion you will be in the deep end you you will feel more like letting them have the story more.

    Now Tina has made a very important point on this: we need to do OWI before letting them do individually created characters. I think you asked her that question and she responded to do 4 or 5 OWI’s and then let 2 of those into a story and then move to to asking the kids to create their own characters and then you will be more in the deep end.

    I think this is necessary for you at the high school level. Otherwise, as Tina says, they would never know the rigid requirements for a character to be accepted into an Invisibles story. The middle school kids glom more easily onto characters. Their inner artists are still in their bodies.

    By the way I am watching your video and it is really good. I am studying it. It is really fine teaching. Will get back to you with my notes by tomorrow evening.

    (Tomorrow evening I get to skype with the original kids who created the Invisibles. I miss them! I can’t wait to reminisce about the spider Vampspooder and Sheldon and Kiwi and Penfly and the others. I can say without equivocation that those characters raise the corners of my mouth and make me aware of a kind of feeling of happiness in my heart. And as Hafiz says and as I like to repeat at every opportunity: “What is truth? That which raises the corners of the mouth.”)

    1. Great quote! Who’s this Hafiz person?

      Perfect timing for me. Your recommendation that I run 2 stories from 2 different OWIs before letting my students create characters is exactly where I’m at and what I will do this coming week.

    2. Thank you, Ben. I’m looking forward to the days when I won’t have much to plan anymore! Also, thanks so much for taking the time to watch that video!

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