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Empire State Egg Drop

More on the visual-spacial learning style. I’m reading Visual-Spacial Learners by Alexandra Shires Golon. She gives a lot of pointers about how to identify the visual-spacial learner — one of the uses of the book is for classroom teachers to identify and help their visual spacial learners.
VSLs, as a general category, are people who think in pictures rather than in words. The “opposing” general category is auditory-sequential learners. Because a book has to be written about VSLs, you might guess that VSLs are not the peopel we usually teach to. You’d be right. You might also guess from these labels that people are one or the other. There you’d be wrong. It’s all about a continuum. We are a rainbow, you know.
My daughter was pegged as a VSL, and I have slowly been trying things out on her. First of all, it is clear that she is quick to conceptualize but slow to organize. A typical VSL, she can get the answer to a question quickly, but she can’t really tell you how she got there. That was enough evidence to tell me that everyone in our family has some amount of VSL-ness. But she’s clearly different. When I asked her (as instructed in the book), “Do you think in pictures or words?” she positively snorted at the silliness of the question. “Of course I think in pictures,” she told me. “Everyone does.” She added that she “can” think in words if she wants to!
Another test in the book is to ask someone to spell a word backwards by seeing it out in front of them, and watch what they do. A VSL is likely to look out to the left. A predominantly auditory-sequential learner is more likely to look to the right. In a quick quiz, I found my son and husband to be instant ASL; my daughter, when asked to spell her name backwards, smiled at the silliness of the question, fixed her gaze on her name floating in space ahead of her, and quickly recited the letters backwards. Another test passed.
If that hadn’t been enough, we got to the Great Egg Drop. My son’s school sent home a paper announcing that his grade and another grade would be competing in an “egg drop” contest. They are to devise a container that will protect an egg dropped from 12 feet. Upon hearing this, my daughter was thrilled, excited, and inspired. Jumping to her feet and dancing, she talked wildly about the prospect of dropping an egg from the top of the Empire State Building. Then she ran to her room.
A few minutes later she reappeared. “This is how the contest works,” she explained. She showed us two diagrams. One showed the Empire State Building + a picture of an egg wrapped in bubble wrap = a picture of an intact egg. The other diagram showed the Empire State Building + a picture of an egg = a picture of an omelette!
A digression: When we tried our daughter in a private kindergarten program, a quiet, contemplative, beautiful place where she would get lots of individual attention, academic stimulation, and emotional education, she had a very rough time. A kind grown-up at the school took a particular interest in her and every day for a few weeks took her for walks and talked to her. After a couple of weeks, this person reported to me her findings. My daughter, it was clear, was very intelligent and creative. But didn’t I think that perhaps “Captain Underpants” was the wrong sort of literature for her to be reading?
At the time, our daughter wasn’t admitting to being able to read, though clearly she’d been able to recognize lots of words for quite a long time. We had a couple of hand-me-down Captain Underpants books that my son had been given; he’d never been particularly interested in them. But our daughter all of a sudden discovered and devoured them. I think she was drawn in by the idea that not only can a story be told in words, but that lots of the information can be conveyed in pictures. A graphic novel is not just an illustrated book. In the graphic novel, the pictures actually tell the story, with words sometimes involved. In an illustrated book, the pictures illustrate what the words are saying but don’t add any information of their own.
My little VSL just loved Captain Underpants, not only because its irreverent attitude matched hers (which I am sure that the books didn’t create or encourage — she was already like that before she discovered them). They also showed the world the way she saw it. She has since grown into reading much more sophisticated comics, and spends significant time pondering the illustrations in books and sometimes remarking on how well or badly they match the story.
It’s a fascinating trail of discovery for us. Stay tuned for more!

Posted in Education, Homeschooling, Parenting.

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