Step Inside: perceive-believe-care about is a routine that can work effectively towards appreciation of the other’s perspective. It asks students to step inside a character and deepen their understanding. Perspective often shapes the way things are understood, so this focus on perspective appreciation can lead to a deeper awareness and help stimulate empathy.
Show students a work of art, a photograph, a video. The source material may also be a story or a poem the class has read. When working on issues of social justice and fairness, choice of material that can evoke an emotional response and lead to more creative understanding is of importance. It might also be material that involves some sort of dilemma calling for multiple perspectives to be considered.
Ask students to step inside, place themselves within the situation and imagine they are a character from the source material. From this perspective, ask them to reflect on the questions:
What do you perceive?
What might you believe?
What might you care about?
Perceive here can be replaced by see, observe or understand. Likewise, believe can be replaced by know or think.
It is interesting to note the use of might in the second and third question. Might sends the message to students that the idea is not to come up with a single answer, but to think broadly about alternatives. Using conditional language signifies our attempt to understand someone else’s perspective through hypothesis making and raising possibilities.
Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. They can first take notes of their responses before sharing them with the rest of the class.
Share the thinking and ideas. If students have worked individually you may consider placing them in groups where each member has chosen a different perspective. Another idea would be that students who have chosen the same perspective are grouped together and compare their responses.
We were working on the topic of deforestation. We tried the routine after having watched a short video of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and gone through a relevant ppt presentation of the story. I asked students to Step Inside the story and imagine they were the tree or the boy. From their chosen perspective they had to respond to the questions. The ideas shared:
Another occasion was when we were working on the topic of bullying. In this case we used the routine to introduce the topic. The source material we used was a detail from Pieter Brueghel’s painting Children’s Games. The detail showed six boys holding another boy by feet and hands. It was the bump bouncing game which involved bouncing someone’s buttocks on a wooden plunk as a form of punishment. I asked students to Step Inside and imagine they were the boy in the middle of the picture. Their ideas:
In this case I had asked students to Step Inside the character of the boy in the middle of the painting. It would be more complete and interesting in terms of understanding perspectives around bullying to have them also consider the viewpoint of the group of children who were bump bouncing him. I tried to bridge this gap with some follow up questions like: Why do you think the boys behave like that? or why do you think they punish him?
You can also read about this routine in Chapter 4 of the British Council’s new book ‘Creativity in the English language classroom’ (Edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey). It is a collaborative publication comprising of 18 chapters, each with a blend of theory and practical activities. The pdf can be found free to download here. Among the contributors there are many members of the C Group, an initiative that brings together a collection of people and a cluster of ideas sharing the belief for reinforced creativity in ELT through collective action.
Children’s Games: Perceive-Believe-Care About, Art in the English Class project
Ritchhart, R, Church, M and Morrison, K (2011) Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 178-184.
The Giving Tree: Step Inside/Perceive-Believe-Care About, Art in the English Class project