Yesterday we had one of the BEST best practice sessions at EDUCARE. Not only was the activity engaging, and my colleague inspiring, but the impact and power of this strategy can yield amazing results in any subject. What I found most interesting and valuable was the fact that it has to do with a skill that I find to be paramount in these days: the ability to express oneself in oral and written form.
The idea that Paty Sapien shared went beyond the visual interpretation of an image. She asked us to look for the story in the images she showed, for the before, the after, but most importantly for the conflict, for the main happenstance in the stimulus. She showed us ‘La Venadita’ by Frida Kahlo, and while we all knew that the statement that accompanied this painting (“I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality”), and knew why she had painted it (her toxic relationship with artist Diego Rivera), we spent sometime discussing the meaning of the lake in the background of the painting; the clouds; the shape of the clouds; the possibility that they were no clouds but fog; the possibility that this could be the island of Xochimilco in Mexico City; the possibility that this could be the forest of Chapultepec (a place she adored); the number of spears on the body; the position of the spears (she has a broken column); and the symbolism of a deer. I
All of the ideas we brainstormed were to be used in a story she started. Then, all of sudden she would stop and someone she nominated would continue, and then this person would stop at a triggering moment and someone else will continue. The process was long, for everyone participated, but every one was engaged from the beginning til the end. I guess we all cared about the end for the story had a part of us- we had contributed to it. She finalized this first task by telling us that the next step would be to write our own version of the story.
Then she asked us to sit in groups of 3 and she handed us 3 drawings by Chris van Allsburg (Jumanji, Zathura), a drawing per person. She then assigned a task to each one: 1 person would create the beginning of the story, another the end, and the remaining person would tie the two other portions. We were given 2 minutes to get inspiration and then the person who in charge of the beginning started to narrate (orally) his/her part, followed by the person who was in charge of the end. This gave the person in charge of tying up the story to find commonalities.
The best part of the experience was the moment when we were trying to create a link between the end and beginning of the story. In my team, the questions that were being asked about why X thing happened, and where Y event would take the main character allowed us to dig deep into the story and operate through reverse reasoning, exploring the hidden histories of the characters and the objects. The objective of this team effort was to write the story, and then share it on the school blog so that all of us could read the stories our colleagues wrote, hence witnessing how they lived the experience.
I worked with Monica (IT teacher), and Memo (PE teacher), and I can’t help but acknowledge how our background contributed in big part to the construction of the story, to the choice of skills and personalities we assigned as we gave life to the main characters, and to the essence in the storyline, which included elements of the 3 subject groups we represented.
This session made me remember what my literature teacher in Middle School used to say: “if you read good literature, you will be able to do anything, and if you are able to tell stories you will be creating spaces where people will learn from you”. Undoubtedly, after reading the story written in my team, I cannot wait to read the others’.