Triptych developed over several iterations as an online, phone-specific tool for free association. My students and I used this tool to develop monologues and poems in an anonymous, collaborative setting. We used it because it was easy and available, making us freer and more creative in our writing.
These digital anonymous exercises are divided into the feeder, the individual output, and the collaboration.
The feeders came quite often from improvisational games I adapted to writing situations. One of the most common ones is based on an improv game called "I am a Tree." The real-life game asks participants to get in a circle. One person initiates the game by presenting a "prompt," such as, "I am a tree." The next person offers a radically different prompt, such as "I am a book." A third person creates a single-sentence piece of dialogue that combines both prompts ("Perfect place to read!"). Played in rapid-fire style, the game allows the participant to train in pattern creation, not just pattern recognition, and to manifest those new patterns as a character in a situation.
In the “feeder” version of this exercise, I allowed participants to enter anonymously into a Google Doc divided into three columns: two for prompts and the last one for the combined offer. Participants could enter text in either prompt and in the response column in any order they wished, from the anonymity of their phones. Over the course of the year, I developed several "feeder" exercises—all of them kept the participants anonymous and were theme-less. All the feeders aimed to create a series of sentences with no theme, censorship, or knowledge of who was writing what.
Almost every single time I had done feeder exercises, participants had broken into laughter at the combinations, at the relevance of some of the prompts, and at the sheer pleasure of finding patterns of language where there were none. Students felt in control of their own prompts. After practicing feeder exercises for a while, their own communal interest, their innate and inherited metaphors for the moment they were living in, began to come to the forefront. Those improvised prompts gave them control of their voices in an organic, collaborative manner. Students were no longer thinking about "what they should write about" or "write what you know." The anonymous digital games allowed them a window into their dreams and nightmares.
This small tool is easily implemented in the classroom as an opening gambit towards freer, more creative writing. Here are the steps to create a simple, collaborative word game, just using phones or computers, and the results of anonymous collaboration on individual student writing.