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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Education Post: VSL, Reading and Writing

Part three:

Here's the assignment:
Create a blog with at least 8 entries to share resources and/or strategies with other educators, administrators, and/or parents. Be sure to include pictures, links, etc. in your blog. Make sure to describe how the resource or strategy might be useful to you and how it would impact VSLs.
This week we look at reading and writing for the Visual-Spatial Learner.  I teach Junior High (7 and 8) grade science, so some of this material is not as relevant for me.

Golon begins her discussion with the claim that phonics is often taught in the schools in the USA.  My wife, who teaches Special Education and is endorsed in Reading and Elementary said that most schools teach phonics as part of their teaching reading, but that isn't their entire approach.

On a personal note, I didn't understand phonics at all until I learned German and Spanish, but that is because English is only partially phonetically based.  (Problems with phonics may be more a fault of English than any problem with learning styles.  I took to those two languages like a duck to water. and learned phonics well - for German, Spanish, and Welsh.  I then applied it to English.)

Many VSL learn words best by sight words - recognizing an entire word at once.  They can create a picture for the word.  Students should therefore learn lots of sight words, creating pictures for themselves to help them do so.  (I don't get that - isn't it easier to remember the word as I do by its shape rather than by creating a shape and then matching it to the word and remembering the whole system?)  Apparently, however, creating images does help readers improve their reading skills.  Golon suggests reviewing the images the reader has formed whenever they reach a punctuation mark.  Once students have begun to learn words by sight they can begin to learn analytic phonics such as similar beginning or ending sounds, common roots and so on.  This is a great approach for all students.

Speed reading is another skill that Golon encourages.  It's skipping all the words that don't create a mental image.  That keeps the basic information but allows for quick reading.  (I think that it also loses the details and the richness of the text.  Perhaps rereading more slowly should be encouraged?)

Important textbook information is often indicated with bold, italics and other clues and supported by graphics.  We start the year in my 7 grade class with a textbook scavenger hunt that helps students understand where important information can be found.  Some of my team mates are even more intense in teaching students how to use their textbooks.  (from a posting for our course by another teacher, Mr. Paul)
. . . scavenger hunts in the social studies texts at the beginning of the year. Map sections, appendices, glossaries, indices, heading & subheadings, table of contents... and yet they lose their way so quickly! I need to work textbook reference challenges into day-to-day work more often, maybe even just as a quick challenge: "Who can tell me the range of the Unit 4 timeline?" 
Color coding with post its and sticky notes is also a good way of sorting information and helping students remember it.  My daughter color codes her class notes.  This approach forces her to read the material, re-read it, organize it, and gives her opportunities for quick review of important or difficult material.

Creative Writing
I'm so glad that I don't have to teach reading to beginning readers.  Or creative writing!

Many VSL have vivid imaginations and great ideas for creative writing, but aren't able to get their ideas down.  This may have several causes including spelling, punctuation and grammar problems, handwriting, organizing their thoughts or using vocabulary that's below their level.  Imagine trying to capture in words the movie as it flashes through your head!  Golon offers several suggestions to help students get from brain to paper.
  • Draw pictures of what you're thinking first, then write from there.
  • Dictate and record what you're thinking.  Then go back and write and edit.
  • Learn to type.  It's faster than handwriting.
  • Alternative assignments --videotaped interviews, movies, slide shows.  Dioramas, maps, posters. 
All of these assignments can and do show that students understand books and material and are to be encouraged as ways of evaluating what students have learned and giving them opportunities to write -- creatively or otherwise.  However, with these alternatives students do not to learn to write, so actual writing can't be eliminated.  In those times students need to be prepared and organized.  They need to start the writing process by planning what they want to say and getting down their ideas.  Then they can go back and fill in the ideas.  Outlines may not work as well as webs for VSL.  Webs can be written or drawn or some combination.  Students need practice developing and using this skill so that they will be prepared when they need to write. Want to see what a web might look like?   Or here.

In summary, one writer described writing for the two different styles as:  "The writing of a visual thinker is like a map of all the possibilities; a verbal thinker writes like a guided tour."   The author provides a table of problems in writing that VSL as writers often encounter.  Imprecision, not communicating well with the reader, too much of the thought process tied up in the mind of the writer, lack of organization are a few of the problems that can rise.

So, happy writing, and I hope that this helps you read and write better wherever you all on the VSL-ASL spectrum.

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