We’ve blogged about how important visualization is in the process of spelling and reading. The ability to create a mental image in one’s mind is essential, as visualizing makes things easier to remember or memorize, and ultimately easier to comprehend. It’s especially critical when it comes to composition, and helps teachers overcome writing problems in children.
The writing process has always been something of a mystery. Authors often shake their heads and shrug when asked, “Where do you get your ideas from?” No one can really say for certain what causes ideas to pop into our heads, and how those ideas flow into the written word.
We are quite certain that visualization plays a major role. Here are three ways you can use it to help your student become a better writer:
1. Visualization helps springboard ideas. Dr. Kellye Knueppel told me a story about a student who was having problems thinking of ideas for a history paper.
The student had a major writer’s block: She couldn’t come up with anything to write about. To jumpstart the process, Dr. Knueppel asked her to start thinking of topics. Whether it was anxiety or frustration, the student continued to draw a blank.
Dr. Knueppel then kick-started the process by not thinking about the paper but instead “brainstorming” things related to the word “history.” The idea was to generate thoughts related to the topic without making any judgment about whether or not they were useful for the paper.
To help your student learn to do this, work collaboratively with him or her to create a list. In the history example, Dr. Knueppel said “George Washington,” hoping the student could then come up with other presidents. “World War II” might help a person think of other wars.
List as many items as the student can think of, then look at the ideas they can build upon for the paper.
It’s easier to write about something when you can see it clearly in your mind. Working together to come up with images and ideas can really help someone who is struggling, especially children who have difficulty visualizing.
2. Visualization helps organize. When a student has generated an idea for composition, the next thing to do is visualize the structure of the written piece.
Different compositions follow different formats: An essay, a blog post, a research paper, a newspaper article, a short story - all these types of prose have different structures. To effectively translate the idea from step one into the structure of step two, it helps to have a student actually visualize the written piece.
Some students may be able to do this in their heads. Other may require writing out an outline, or a set of sentences. Either way, visualizing the overall structure helps create the framework for the actual writing. It requires the ability to think spatially, and consider what the piece will look like in terms of size.
It may help to have a student look at an example of how someone else constructed a similar composition. You can break down the piece and show the author’s thinking and overall framework.
3. Visualization becomes part of the physical act of writing. Now that your student is ready to write, they need to incorporate visualization into the process.
Writing is actually multi-tasking. You have to be able to see your subject in your mind while you’re writing each word and sentence. You’re also spelling, using correct grammar and punctuation, and controlling your handwriting. There’s a lot happening, and these tasks need to work cohesively for productive writing to occur.
This can be extremely difficult for people who not only struggle to visualize, but also have a vision problem that affects their ability to physically write. Throw one of the elements out of whack, and the whole process derails.
For example, if you’re a poor speller and you need to stop and check your spelling, it can inhibit your writing flow. You may lose track of where you are in the sentence, where the sentence fits in the paragraph, and how the paragraph works with the overall piece.
This is why it’s so difficult to stop during the writing process and take a phone call, or check email. It disrupts the harmony between your visualization, your mental structuring and organization, and the actual physical execution.
As you can see in each of these three elements of writing, visualization plays a critical role. If your child or student experiences difficulty in any of these areas, consider a Functional Vision Test to ensure they’re not suffering from an undetected vision problem.
Learn how undetected vision problems can impact a child's ability to learn. Download your free Vision and Learning Guide.