Guided Imagery invites students to close their eyes to listen to a descriptive, narrative story and to imagine they are experiencing the events being described. Guided Imagery can be used to build background knowledge and experience, both factual and emotional, about an event and to build interest on a topic or story.
First, select a piece of Guided Imagery narration; this could be something written for the content/task or found and adapted. Ideally the text is in the second person (“you” form) and includes rich sensory detail to engage students more deeply in the situation or a dilemma. Next, invite students to find a comfortable space; this can be at their seats or on the floor if appropriate. Ask students to close their eyes or look down, relax, and visualize the story as they hear it. Read the prepared narrative to the group, working to capture the tension, sensory language, and drama of the story. For example, a narration about The Diary of Anne Frank might read: You wake with a start. You can feel your father's heavy hands on your shoulders, whispering urgently. “It’s time,” he says, “Put on as many layers as you can, but remember, it must look like an ordinary day for us.” In the dark shadow of night you begin to dress. You put on three layers of socks and your heaviest boots. You put on two cotton shirts under a thick sweater. You wash your face. The cold water stings your cheeks as you look into the mirror and wonder what will happen. You leave your bed unmade. Breakfast dishes in the sink. You notice your mother has left out her knitting and the radio is on low. You walk behind your older sister and your mother and father, out your door for the last time, through the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam; you pretend to be invisible. You know that this part of your journey is the most dangerous. You can hear your mother saying a quiet, hushed prayer in Yiddish, her voice barely audible over the click of her heels on the ground. Your heart is pounding. You can feel the yellow Jewish star on your coat bending in the breeze. You see the red doorway of your father's office. A cat screeches. You freeze. You want to turn to look but can't. You mustn't look suspicious. Your father grabs your hand and draws you through the door: “We made it. We're here.”
- What kinds of sights/sounds/smells did you imagine?
- Describe the central character. What is happening and why?
- What does this character’s experience have to do with our current unit of study?
- Find a place in the room (at your seat) where you can listen quietly and comfortably.
- Listen closely to the words and imagine the action in your mind.
- Pay attention to how you would feel in this situation.
In addition to helping students visualize a story, use this strategy to help students create a character. For example, in a lesson based on the children’s book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, students listen to a series of questions as a way to help them create characters for an upcoming Town Hall Meeting: I invite you to either close your eyes or look down. I’m going to ask you a series of questions and I’d like you to silently think about the answers to these questions. Think about the character you’ve chosen to play. Is this character a pig? Is this character a wolf? Is this character another animal? What is your character’s name? How old is your character? What does your character do for a living? How does your character know A. Wolf? Does your character know the pigs? How does your character feel about the trial? Do they want A. Wolf locked away forever? Or do they want him released? Why? Think about how your character might sit in a chair. Take a moment to transform your body to sit as your character. Leading up to the trial, there has been a lot of reporters writing articles painting A. Wolf as a villain. There is one reporter in town named Penny Penguin who wants to get the real story, or at least both sides of the story. She has called you to a meeting in town hall to interview you about your point of view. You arrive to the meeting excited to share your side of the story, to tell her what you really think about A. Wolf. I invite you to open your eyes and look up. When I put on this scarf, I am going to step into role as Penny the reporter. We will start the meeting in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode