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Sunday, October 14, 2012

VSL Learners: Part seven Organization!! Yikes!

VSL Learners: Part Seven Organization!!  Yikes!

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.
We begin with an article by Dr. Silverman, "Why All Students Need Visual-Spatial Methods."  In the article she points out that as the economy shifts to an information age and then a conceptual age, the needs of the marketplace will change and employers will require different skills.  She quotes
Tom West (1991), author of In the Mind’s Eye, suggests that in the 21st century employees will require strong visual skills: “ready recognition of larger patterns, intuition, a sense of proportion, imaginative vision, the original and unexpected approach, and the apt connection between apparently unrelated things” (p. 88).
Daniel H. Pink (2005), author of A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, proposes that, now that information is readily available on the Internet, success in today's world is dependent on empathy, intuition, spirituality and right hemispheric-directed abilities.
"In the United States, the number of graphic designers has increased tenfold in a decade; graphic designers outnumber chemical engineers by four to one. Since 1970, the United States has 30% more people earning a living as writers and 50% more earning a living by composing or performing music. ... More Americans today work in arts, entertainment and design than work as lawyers, accountants and auditors." (p. 55)
Silverman continues,
Success in school still depends upon:
  • Following directions
  • Turning in assigned work on time
  • Memorization of facts
  • Fast recall
  • Showing steps of work
  • Neat, legible handwriting
  • Accurate spelling
  • Punctuality
  • Good organization; tidiness
What positions require the skills so heavily prized in school? These auditory-sequential skills are actually limiting the potential of all students to gain employment in today's world. Citizens of the 21st century are rewarded beyond school for:
  • Ability to predict trends
  • Grasping the big picture
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Risk-taking
  • Problem-finding and problem-solving skills
  • Combining one's strengths with others' to build a strong team
  • Computer literacy
  • Dealing with complexity
  • Ability to read people well
So what do we make of this?

First, I don't think that it's a question of either/or.  We shouldn't get rid of following directions.  Society depends on people who can follow traffic and other laws.  And to employer's directions.  Besides, most young people won't start out in jobs where the second set of skills are valued.  They will work in fast food places, or retail and those requirements haven't changed in the years since the articles above were written.  These entry level job employers value the first set much more than the second (with the exception of the people skills). Eventually many of the young people (if they have the discipline and get the training) may go on to acquire or invent jobs that involve the second set as well.  The first set of skills are unlikely to go out of style.

So how do we help our VSL students acquire more of the first set of skills which many of them find difficult?
First, I would like to say that in my experience many, many students have organization problems.  I think that lack of organization is due to several factors including personality type and bent (including how one best learns), immaturity (a huge factor), lack of practice, and poor parenting.  I think that the last is a factor that is often ignored.  Parents don't have the energy or discipline themselves to help train their children.  I realize of course that certain personalities reinforce certain traits and habits, but could it also be that certain habits reinforce certain personalities?  I'm also amazed at how many nationalities don't seem to have trouble with organization and study skills.  Generally, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, and European students are very organized.  American students not so much.  Are there fewer VSL students from those other nationalities?  It would be interesting to see the research if there is any.  Or could it be that those other cultures value and stress good study habits and organization?

Here's how to increase organizational skills.
  1. First, realize that this is a long process.  It will not happen in a few weeks.  It will take months or years.  Persistence is necessary.  I have found that parents often lose patience and give up.  This is hard for some parents because they also lack (for whatever reason) those organizational skills and the discipline in their own lives.  It is therefore hard to transfer these skills to another person.
  2. Second, what works for one student may or may not work for another.  This can be especially frustrating for parents who succeed with one method for an older child but who find that this method does not work for younger siblings.  Students should be encouraged to try different methods for a length of time to discover/develop what works for them.  They may change as they get older.  I used to be more of a stack person.  Now I'm more of a file/sprawl person, much to my wife's annoyance.
  3. Planners and calendars  Students need to develop some sort of calendaring method to keep track of assignments.  We as adults use them, so the kids should too!  There are lots of options for this from paper to notebooks to software.  When placing items in the planner, it is helpful to write the assignment on the due date and also on several dates before that so that I am reminded that I need to work on it during the interval.  Families may also need to have a calendar at home where activities and assignments are written.
  4. Folders  Students should be taught how to organize their material by subject and within subject by homework, completed assignments, notes, and whatever else may be important for that class.
  5. Coloring coding notes and folders is another way of helping students interact with their notes enabling them to quickly review the important words and concepts.  Color coding folders increases the chances that materials will end up in the right place.
  6. Routines  Putting one's belongings in one place helps reduce lost keys, glasses, and phones.  It also reduces the likelihood of leaving home with doors unlocked and stoves on!  In the classroom we should have routines as much as we can so that students know what to expect.  They will be more likely to deliver what we want from them.  (
  7. Modeling organization   One of the important factors for teaching students how to be organized is to show them organization.  That may mean that we go overboard to show them, because for many adults our organization is in our heads, on our phones etc. and isn't obvious to young people.  So we may have to put up assignments in several places, and repeat them often, and have the students write them down several times.  One of my colleagues at my school said that she doesn't assume that her Kindergarten students are able to pack their own backpacks before school starts. So she teaches them how to pack their backpacks!  I am so thankful for those who teach younger students these skills.  Hats off to you all!

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