Friday, January 27, 2017

InterPlay Gives International Students in the U.S. the Opportunity to “Talk More” in English and to “Notice”

Written by Ruth Schowalter, MS Applied Linguistics, Certified InterPlay Leader, Art & Soul Creativity Coach

I’m excited.
I’m  energized.
I’m sad.
I’m happy, happy, happy.
I’m confused…

…And so the expressions leapt out of the mouths of the 10 international students circled around me. We are on the Georgia Tech campus at the Language Institute, where I’m teaching in an advanced elective class “Talk More 2” using the improvisational system of InterPlay. I had asked each to give a word or phrase along with an action that expressed what they were feeling at the conclusion of our 65-minute class. Then our whole group repeated the words and action.

“Noticing” what we are feeling is something we do in InterPlay. Frequently, between our activities, we stop and “notice”; that is, we reflect on what we are thinking and feeling both emotionally and physically and express these “noticings” to a partner or the entire group. I might add that students have options in articulating these reflections.  They can remain silent; offer any words in English describing their experience of themselves; their partner or entire class; or speak in their native language or a made-up one. Making choices how to participate is part of the InterPlay system—respecting the individual student’s internal authority (the topic of a future blogpost).

Since the “noticings” or reflected expressions listed above were done at the end of the class and students linger as they are wont to do after connecting with each other during InterPlay activities, I was able to catch a moment with the Korean student who had said, “I’m sad.” His response to my question, “Are you okay?” resulted in an InterPlay gesture I taught in our very first class. He took his hand to his forehead in the place between his eyebrows and then flung it out in the air and said, “Wheee…”!

This “wheee…” gesture accompanied with his smile indicated to me that he was okay. In fact, he was more than okay! He had succeeded in contributing something to the group when it was his turn even when no particular thought was in his mind. I teach the students that whatever they say is “enough.”

InterPlay gives us permission to have a feeling or thought without the need to “articulate” it. However, that is not to say that he may have been experiencing some sadness, but he felt comfortable enough to say that to our group and leave it at that.  Words, ideas, feelings, and movements occur when we are doing InterPlay activities and we don’t attach too much to them.

I also caught a moment with the Japanese student who had stated that she was confused and asked her if she had more to say about that. She did. Laughingly she asked, “The brain is different from the heart, right? My thinking is fine. But what I feel is confused.” I nodded. We go over in each class that as human beings we have a lot to check in with—our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. I understood from what she said is that she now wanted to process the feelings she experienced in class with her “brain.” In Japanese or English? Both? Or Wheee...!

Wow! InterPlay has transformed the way I interact with my students. I am now relating on two dimensions. I am still the educator guiding the “student” through the class agenda with its conversational content and activities. At the same time, I am creating a space for the  “person” to be present to himself or herself, their experience of the class, other participants, and the world at large.

Stay tuned for future discoveries in the ESL college classroom here in Atlanta, Georgia!
In this newly minted English-as-a-Second Language class, “Talk More 2,” the students are phenomenal! They are ready to “play” with English through movement, storytelling, and voice.  It is fascinating to explore ways InterPlay activities and principles can assist these international students in increasing their American English fluency, comfort in American culture and beyond to a global world. 
InterPlay provides a classroom platform for international students to play around with using English to connect with themselves and their classmates. These advanced ESL students elected to take this InterPlay class, making them (in my mind) special adventurous individuals. They willingly agreed to step into a class that was advertised as getting them out of their comfort zone!

Talk More: Speaking English with Confidence
Tuesdays and Thursdays (6 weeks) 1:25-2:30
Instructor: Ruth Schowalter

Do you want to feel more comfortable speaking in English? In this class, you will have fun expressing yourself orally while working in pairs, small and large groups, or alone. Using the improvisational system of InterPlay, you are invited to speak without preparation and to make things up. In addition to expanding your story telling abilities, you will learn other ways to communicate with others using movement, voice, and stillness. Whether you are shy or outgoing, you can learn how to succeed at getting your message across more effectively and enjoy the process!

 Be prepared to be amused, expand your abilities, connect with others, find new ways of expressing yourself, relax, and be re-energized. You will more than likely find yourself challenged to stretch a little out of your comfort zone. It will be well worth it!

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