Sunday, March 22, 2009

Engaging The Senses

With only two months left in the school year, parents all over the country are brainstorming ways to help their children keep up their academic skills during the summer. When evaluating potential programs or curriculum for at-home use, look for a multi-sensory approach. By fully engaging the senses, we can fully engage the child.

Research by William Glasser M.D. tells us we remember/learn:
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
75% of what we discuss with someone else
85% of what we personally experience
95% of what we teach to someone else

As a Learning Coach I try to help many struggling readers with fluency and comprehension. Most of my clients are visual-spatial or kinesthetic learners so I ask them to engage their senses while they read. When they read for meaning I have them stop after every sentence and tell me what they see or feel. They lay down meaning from what they read frame by frame as in a movie.

Consider this sample reading passage: “Then the drought came and stayed. The land begged for water, but even Pecos Bill couldn’t make it rain.”

To check comprehension I begin by asking the child, “What does the word drought mean?” Many times a student can decode a word but not understand what it means. I suggest that we can get a clue from other words in context. I ask the student, “What did the author mean when he wrote that the land begged for water?” To use all of his senses I might ask the child to demonstrate or act out the scene in order to try to make the sentence more concrete. I might say, “Pretend you are the ground and beg for water.” Then I have the child think about why the ground would beg for water. My hope is that the child would draw the conclusion that the ground would beg for water if it was dry or “thirsty for rain.”

It would be safe to guess that the word “drought” used in the first sentence meant “a long period of dry weather, with little or no rain. To check our prediction, we look the word up in the dictionary to see if we are correct. This gives the child another skill to use if he can not get clues in context. By using the dictionary, the child can integrate the spelling of the word, the pronunciation of the word as well as the definition.

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