Suzanne Barton is a “Teacher with Habitudes.” Suzanne, a fifth grade Language Arts teacher at Woodward Academy, has a passion for helping her students become powerful 21st century communicators who are motivated to move beyond their own “small” worlds to touch the lives of others in a positive way.
After reading Angela’s book Habitudes last winter, I decided that I would begin this school year by introducing the habitude of imagination. In each of my three fifth grade English classes, I wrote the word imagination inside a circle on the white board. Each class was unique in its responses, and a student from each class captured them for us. I was impressed by the ideas my students expressed so easily, and one idea quickly led to another. The activity had them fully engaged!
After introducing the idea of imagination and talking about it among ourselves, the next day I asked my students to close their eyes and think about all of the ways they have used their imaginations throughout their childhood. Then each student brainstormed different imaginary experiences they have enjoyed, writing them down in a simple list. After they had written their lists, I asked them to choose one imaginary experience and write about it.
Their paragraphs were rich in descriptions of their imaginary play: several secret agents, a world-traveling sailor, an energetic gymnast, a toy doctor obsessed with Band-aids, a Power Ranger, an air-kicking ninja, a librarian who reads to little kids, a brilliant inventor, a robotic vacuum cleaner engineer, an invisible fairy, a beautiful fairy, a construction dude, an amazing stuntman, a one-room schoolhouse teacher, a disappearing magician, several fabulous chefs, an owner of exotic pets, Spider Man, President Obama debating Hilary Clinton, the world’s greatest actor, a best-selling author, a gifted fashion designer, a charming tea-party hostess, a spell-casting wizard, Captain America, and a fighter of evil aliens. After completing their final copies in the computer lab, the students searched the net (Go to pics4learning.com for pictures that require no attribution.) for pictures to illustrate their imaginary experiences. The printed, illustrated paragraphs were proudly displayed on our bulletin boards for all to enjoy!
Much of what my students learned from this writing experience is obvious. They were engaged writers because they were writing about something that was important to them, and they were writing for an audience of their peers. Beyond that, however, was the potential for much more. As a result of our conversations and writings about imagination, I hope that my students were able to visualize that if they can imagine such creative, exciting ideas as children, certainly they can do the same as they grow into adulthood. As one of my students exclaimed during our discussion, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” (He had discovered the Thoreau quotation on his iPad during our discussion.) I hope that as a result of this experience, my students will see themselves as people who can envision something exceptional in their futures, something that has never been imagined before, and perhaps they will be the ones to accomplish great feats that have not yet been achieved. They are our future, and what they eventually do (or do not do) with their imaginations will influence not only the microcosms of their own lives but also the world we all inhabit.