Visualize, Please, Where In The World Are We?

The Lovable Poet teaching

The Lovable Poet introduces a student presenter

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

I have a funny travel-related story about one of my third grade students in a school where I recently taught. For background, I should mention that I structure a week-long residency as an odyssey. “We’ll travel the world of poetry,” I tell each class,  for example, if it’s poetry I’ll be teaching that week, and along the way we’ll discover”…and I elaborate with details not necessary to include here.

The odyssey concept opens up all kinds of opportunities for me to guide students in visualizing themselves in various modes of transportation. Visualization is at the heart of this story.

So, on one day early in the week this story took place, I asked each class of students if they’d ever been on a train. “Picture this classroom as a train car; we’re boarding the Poetry Train,” I explained, as I conjured up an image of us speeding down a track headed for several stations, including a special place I call The Wonderful World of Words. After our station stops, the Poetry Train soon brought us to our private, quiet writing zones.

During class the next day, we traveled the world by Air Express, through our imaginations and with the visual aid of a small easy-to-hold world map. I introduced my students to poems and poets from countries I pointed to on the map with gestures that approximated flying. Then we landed back again in quiet writing zones.

On the next day, I told my students that we would start class with my reading aloud a poem that I recently wrote. Before I even read the title, Owney – The U.S. Mail Dog (the late nineteenth century official mascot of the US Railway Mail Service, preserved to this day at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC) the third grader this story is about raised his hand and asked if we would be traveling by boat that day, continuing our Poetry Odyssey!

As luck would have it, I’d written a stanza in the poem about Owney traveling by boat. Here it is: Owney traveled on trains; he sailed on boats in style/Before his adventurous life was done/Owney had crossed a hundred forty-three thousand miles! The whole class laughed, amazed, and I was in awe of the power of visualization!

Take this attention-ology trick and put it to work in your class. The key to getting students to “buy into” visualization “exercises” is an engagingly commanding tone of voice and the strength of the words used to paint a picture that students embrace. Fun is another key element in the success of this attention-ology trick. When you and your class enjoy imaginative play, your students will gladly get on board with visualization.

Try another travel-wise tool that uses visualization – Play a game I made up called Globe Spin. Most classrooms have a globe; it’s a standard teaching tool that you can use to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention.

How to play Globe Spin

  • You can introduce Globe Spin in two basic ways, either as a surprise activity or as a regularly scheduled part of your week. Globe Spin is ideal for leading into a Social Studies lesson.
  • In advance, select a place in the world to “visit” during Globe Spin. I select my “destinations” based on souvenirs I have from different countries. For example, I have some Canadian coins that feature Queen Elizabeth. I have a piece of lucky wood from Paris, noteworthy because the French created the expression, “Knock on wood for good luck.” Greek worry beads, a piece of hand-woven fabric from Pakistan and a carved shell pendant from Kenya add to my collection of souvenirs that I can share with students when we play Globe Spin and “visit” those respective countries.
  • Place the globe on a desk or table in the center of class.  Ask a student to come up, hold the base of the globe securely with one hand and spin it with the other hand.
  • Stop the spinning by suddenly placing your hand on top of the globe and point to your pre-selected location. Invite the class to ask with you aloud, “Where in the world are we?”
  • Show the souvenir, photo, or item from that place and ask if anyone knows (or can guess) what it is.
  • Involve the class in a brief discussion that connects with the culture of that part of the world.
  • Close the attention-ology activity by announcing that it’s time to turn attention to the Social Studies lesson ahead.

Good news for time-strained teachers: Using visualization to travel the world is practical as well as pleasing because you can control the amount of time you devote to these attention-getting activities.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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