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Everyone Loves a Slinky

Recently at the TAMU UWC, we incorporated a new resource into our sessions: toys. In every writing carrel, there is a small box of knick-knacks that are to be used as a sort of visual aid to both the client and consultant. However, their purpose has so far seemed ambiguous, at best. Yes, we had discussed their potential uses in various meetings, but even that was limited to fairly obvious and uninventive approaches.

I personally had no idea what could be done with these tchotchkes, and typically only took one out to fiddle with if I had an extremely simple or independent session. Then one day, quite by accident, I resolved a client’s primary issue with the simple stretch of a slinky.

He was working on a very complex case study, and only had a set amount of pages. Of course, the process he had to detail had a plethora of separate causes and effects, which ended up taking about two pages to describe. He knew this was too much, but was still unsure of how the information should be presented. I wanted to suggest that he compile the individual articles into general subjects, and then expand more specifically on each of those to summarize what he wanted to convey. Unfortunately, he would repeatedly misinterpret what I was trying to get across, as English was still not familiar to him.  While I was readdressing the idea in a new approach, I happened to reach for the toy chest as a creative outlet to expand my thought process, gave a slinky a stretch, and somehow inspired his comprehension.

Although we probably would have eventually come to the resolution, I still feel that that spring’s image was able to quantify a personal answer at a pace I couldn’t match with words alone. This was an especially valuable commodity, as time is the ever-lacking resource for any type of session, and this form of explanation might have a more resonating effect on clients who frequently require a basic recap of a specific rhetorical subject.

When it comes to researching toys and “play” in education, there are plenty of sources detailing the developmental importance in children and adolescents, but the data involving matured adults are few and far between.  Most of the time, they are merely filling the role of actor, supervising or pacifying children at play. However, it stands to reason that such an unfamiliar subject could hold potential insights to a variety of professional inquiries, should it be examined in the right way.

A number of separate stimuli could be introduced to an audience in an expository manner of common issues in general writing, and the applications would range in their subtlety. For instance, stretching a slinky as you detail your client’s method of expansion could add a nice visual effect to the critique, which in turn may influence their future recollection; separately, a more direct approach might involve a simple stack of blocks. Each block would symbolize a component of a paper, and then be arranged until a tower formed. If the consultant in question used more macro focuses for a foundation, it might serve a purpose to remove a keystone of the structure and watch it topple to indicate something’s value to the integrity of a work.

Regardless of the methods and tools studied, data from this observation could prove vital for determining a way to catalyze client reception of both obscure and foundational knowledge. While it is currently in its test stages, it has the potential and the simplicity to be quickly performed across a wide range of settings to gain further insight. Should this be the case, many grad students may end up having their theses saved by Rock‘Em Sock‘Em Robots.


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