Friday, July 20, 2012

Visualising and Reading Comprehension Pt3

I had a look at a video presentation by Nancy Bell at and I would recommend that everyone interested in reading comprehension view this excellent video presentation.

In this video she introduces her audience to the Dual Coding Theory which is the theoretical foundation for her work in reading comprehension. It also gives the viewer a good understanding of why some children have difficulties with reading comprehension.

If you have a good theoretical understanding of reading comprehension based on an understanding of the cognitive processing then it should give consistency and be firm foundation for good teaching of reading.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Visualizing and Reading Comprehension Pt2

Oral Language underpins the development of other language activities, such as reading and writing.
By focusing on the development of oral language skills children will learn to manipulate and control their world to suit their purposes.
Barrier Games
Barrier Games  provide opportunities to develop skills for both speaking (composing) and listening (comprehension). A common barrier game that many of us will have played is Battleships, a hit or miss game using coordinates to knock out the opponent's ships that have been placed on a grid but out of sight.

Barrier games have been around for many years and require players to give and receive directions while being separated by some kind of barrier. A barrier game requires two players to be placed on either side of a table with some kind of barrier between them so that they cannot see each others materials. Almost anything can be used as a barrier such as: books, folders, or binders. Usually each player has the same set of materials in front of them. The players take turns giving the other player very specific instructions or descriptions on how to arrange or manipulate the materials in front of them, without using any visual cues. The goal of the game is to have both players’ materials look the same at the end of the activity. For example, one player could build a simple object such as a leggo boat and give instructions for the other player to construct an identical unseen object.
Another idea is to give the participants a map. One player is instructed to place a treasure somewhere on the map and then to give instructions to the other player so that he/she can follow the trail to the hidden treasure. The maps could be identical pirate maps. A variation of this activity is to photocopy street maps and ask the children to give directions in how to go from point A to point B. This activity requires a great deal of very specific language and the ability to listen carefully. It also requires the participants to visualise the instructions.
An idea to develop the ability to visualise (or to make an imagined picture) is to give one participant a simple picture e.g. a colouring in picture. The participant with the picture then describes the scene while the other participant attempts to draw the picture on a blank piece of paper by following the instructions. This is quite difficult and the children will usually require some hints as to how to give good instructions. For example, the use of words to indicate size, shape, position, direction, and perspective could be demonstrated before the beginning of the activity.
Barrier games not only develop language and the ability to imagine but they also develop the ability to link these two modes of thinking in working memory.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Visualizing and Reading Comprehension Pt1

This is the first part in a 12 part series on using a visualising strategies to develop reading comprehension. 

When readers read and comprehend written text and they develop what is sometimes referred to as a situation model. A situation model uses information that the reader brings to the task of reading and combines this with the new text-based information to build comprehension. Thus, readers construct an interpretation (or situation model) of what they are reading by combining information from their background knowledge together with information extracted from the print. The new information that is processed in working memory may be visual, verbal, or a combination of both. The two modes if information are in a reciprocal relationship, for example, if one thinks of a word one can form a picture of that word and if one imagines a picture a number of associated words will be evoked. This means that when the two modes are linked more items can be chunked together and stored in working memory.

It is the linking of words with pictures that will enable a more efficient use of working memory resulting in better reading comprehension. The two modes complement one another but function quite differently, for example, the verbal system is linear and sequential. To remember a number of words or numbers a person needs to repeatedly rehearse them in the order in which they were encoded so that the impressions are maintained in working memory. In contrast, visual memory temporarily stores all their items in the form of a holistic image in which the items are placed in a spatial relationship to one another. Within this image individual items can be accessed by zooming in or out or in different directions. When the representations are connected comprehension will be enhanced because information can be more easily accessed and retrieved.

If one is able to describe an object in detail the better will be the associated mental image because it holds more information and has more links to verbal information. One way to develop the descriptive words is to place an unseen object in a bag and have the learner described the object so that the listener can guess what the object is. Children often have a great deal of difficulty finding the best words to use to describe the unseen object. Most children need to be shown how to describe an object. For example, by using words that are related by; size such as large or huge, or by texture such as rough or smooth.

Another fun way to develop language is to use the game, " Guess Who'.  In this game the learner  has two think of words to fit into, "Does  your person have...? This is a simple type of language game and a good way to introduce some basic vocabulary.

In the next blog I will be discussing the development of language skills using other types of barrier games.