Monday, April 4, 2011

Come Away from the Dark Side

On Friday, I met Andrew, a smallish, third grade boy who wore his distaste for reading like a badge of honor. We all know these kids. They proudly announce how they don’t read books and how reading is stupid and boring. Often, when these readers (or non-readers, as the case may be) make this proclamation, we teachers say things like, “Oh, Andrew, how could you say that? Stories are filled with action and excitement. Stories are wonderful.”

When we say things like that, our intentions are good. We know that if our students hate reading, they won’t want to do it, and if they don’t want to do it, they won’t practice and get better. It’s only natural to want to cajole them away from the dark and twisty side.

But I didn’t say that to Andrew when he told me that he doesn’t like to read. Instead, I said, “I get what you mean. Sometimes, when I read, I can’t picture it and I feel like it doesn’t really make any sense. When this happens, I don’t really like to read either.” When Andrew heard this, he softened a bit. He allowed me to come with him into his book and we flipped through the pages and talked about the pictures and how the pictures make the story come alive.

…Or I should say, I talked about that.

Andrew listened and then after careful thought and consideration, he said, “Yeah, but I don’t get how you do that. How do you see pictures in your mind?”

This took me by surprise. On the one hand, I recognized that Andrew hates reading because it doesn’t make sense, but on the other hand, I made the assumption he visualized as he read.

Our notions of what children can and should be able to do cause us to take for granted what students ARE doing. These assumptions can lead our teaching astray. Andrew’s comment was the quick jolt of reality that I needed to shake me awake and remind me to listen actively and adjust my teaching to his needs. Coaxing him from the dark side won’t happen from simply validating his feelings about reading. Now it’s time to give him the tools he needs to understand.


The Book Chook said...

I wonder if there isn't some neurophysiological basis for Andrew's not seeing pictures in his mind. I have a friend who tells me he can't do this either. I'll be most interested to see what you use to help him.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love sharing with the community at large. Book Chook, left to my own devices,I never would have even entertained the possibility of there being a neurophysiological basis at the root of this problem. How would one go about finding out more about this?

For now, we are devising a series of visualization lessons that don't have much to do with "seeing" at all. We are tapping the other four senses to help Andrew visualize. We are asking him to think about what he hears when he reads the words and what he imagines himself feeling. I'll have to get back to you about how it goes...

Kim Yaris said...

Book Chook, with the slip of a button, I hit anonymous by mistake! Oops! That last comment was me!