26.5.15

On Reading Comprehension and How It is Connected to Young People's Ability to Visualize Their Own Meaningful Future

www.quirkyworks.co.uk
A few weeks ago, I practiced some listening with one of my teen students by listening to an audiobook: an abridged version of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", by Robert Louis Stevenson.

After listening to the first chapter, which was quite long to be honest, we approached the reading comprehension questions at the end of the book. Surprisingly my student didn't get a single one right. He had almost fallen asleep while the CD was going, while I ,on the other hand, had been imagining my personal version of the movie of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The difference in our approaches to reading and listening made me realize that maybe one of the reasons why teenagers don't read is because they can't create that film in their own heads. But now the question is: how is that possible? I mean, children spend their lives analyzing texts of any nature and genre, so how come most of them end up disliking books?

I'm a visual person, I can draw a map of a town in my head just after a few walks around it. I can see vivid images of what I'm reading, and the other four senses are quite active too.  Obviously, that wouldn't be the case if I hadn't spent primary school drawing pictures for our classroom posters. They were about history, geography or even letters: big posters hanging on my classroom wall all year round. We also read stories and answered questions about them, and guess what? I don't remember those stories, but I do have clear images of those posters in my mind and I still remember the stories they told.

Thanks to the Multiple Intelligences Theory , we now know that each one of us learns in a different way and this means that probably some of my classmates probably remember school plays best, while others will remember the games played or the school trips we took. Any and every kind of experience can be called to mind while reading a book to enhance the experience and make it personal.

Anyway, all these memories have led me to this question: Why can't  teens use their imagination? Do they even have one?  Or  are they just future grey adults, who can only follow instructions, and are incapable of creating their own meaningful future because they can't even imagine it?

The next question is: how can we improve our children's ability to be creative and imaginative?

There are probably many theories which could answer this last question. I'd like to tell you about one in particular, mainly because I had ignored it until January and even though it surprised me quite a lot when I first heard about it, later, I definitely understood the essence of its principles later on.

So here you go! It's called Creative Education and basically it allows any kind of person to express his/her creativity through free-of-all-impediments drawing. During these graphic art sessions nobody judges, compares or comments on any of the drawings in order to allow a real and profound personal expression.

So, I was asked to teach English to preschoolers following this method and what's more, I was told that no illustrations or illustrated albums were allowed in order to avoid any influence on the way the kids expressed themselves. 

Imagine my reaction to the no-illustrations-or-illustrated-books-or-cards rule,
since one of the reasons I love my job is precisely  because I  have the best excuse to collect illustrated albums and cards!

However, thinking about it, I realized that it made total sense. I thought about Beatrix Potter, and how she became the first children's author and illustrator ever, as well as my forever favorite. She spent her whole life drawing animals using real models. No illustrated children's  book had ever existed before her. This shows that, as the Creative Education principles affirm, she could fully express herself in her drawings and stories. And she did a wonderful job of it!

So, to cut a long story short, the week after the first chapter od Dr Jeckyll and Mr hyde I dedicated part of  the class to a  visualization session during which my student had to describe how he was imagining the characters and their surroundings after listening to the description of each scene.

Of course it worked wonderfully. This time, he could easily answer all the reading comprehension questions properly, because he had finally been able to watch his own film too!



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