Anyone who has worked with students writing their college essays knows how challenging it can be to help students find poignant examples from their lives that really give the colleges a sense of who they are. Guided Visualization is simply a technique where students close their eyes while you talk them through a 2-5 minute relaxation exercise, and then using a very deliberate, sequential narrative, have students visualize the content that you want them to explore. After the activity, students are given a copy of the outline of what you have directed, and told to fill in the details with what they just visualized. Some students, when given a prompt, hit the ground running. Most, however, perform better if they have had time to think about the prompt and wander. These exercises create student focused wandering in a very short time; students are often amazed and delighted by how much they create.
The Time Machine template, used here for personal narrative essays can be adapted to other college and financial aid essay prompts. I provide two; you can either use the template to create others, or have your students take turns creating their own examples and leading the class. The use of the time machine allows students to access their experiences from the past, and to imagine options for their future. Though it starts with the recalling of personal memories, it can be used to access academic details as well.
* Students will learn how to create a calm space for themselves before starting a new or stressful task..
* Students will learn to access prior experiences or information.
* Students will create their own guided visualization exercises, learning to apply the process to other aspects of their lives.
* Students will produce specific information and details that respond to a prompt.
This lesson contains the following:
1 . A detailed, step by step description of what students do.
2. Links to the history and benefits of using guided visualization in the classroom.
3. Three detailed descriptions: one for a relaxation exercise, and two Time Machine exercises that fit college personal narrative prompts.
4. Ideas for grading and assisting, and peer editing.
5. A reflection activity.
Actual editing suggestions are not included; the purpose of this exercise is to help students meaningfully respond to the prompt. Once the emotional content and details are there, you can use your usual approaches towards word choice and grammar to clean up the actual writing.
Time: 4-5 hours for teacher and student guided visualizations and writing an essay, + homework time for revisions; 40-50 minutes for each prompt.
Relaxation exercise (10 - 15 minutes)
Guided Visualization (20 - 25 minutes)
Quickly take notes and discuss with group. (10 minutes)
Peer editing sessions ( 15 minutes x 2)