My guest blogger today is Jeffrey Pfaum, an inner-city schoolteacher, who is sharing his creative ideas for reading, writing, imaginning and drawing exercises.
Reading-and-Imagining Writing Exercise
You can develop the imagination with simple exercises, where the mind changes words into pictures. Ask your child to close her eyes and picture—or visualize—words in her mind. For example, have her read the word dog, and say:
- “Picture the word ‘dog’ in your mind.”
- “What are you looking at?”
- What picture(s) do you imagine?”
- “Describe the mind-picture(s).”
- Draw or pencil-sketch what you imagine.”
- “What thoughts, feelings, and experiences are triggered by the mind-picture(s)?”
(1) The key is to draw out the details of the mind-picture, or what they are visualizing: type of dog (if they can name it), color(s), shape/size (what it looks like), and actions, movements, and behavior. The more they see and imagine, the greater the engagement and motivation.
(2) When you add feelings, thoughts, and experiences to the picture, you expand their response to reading words: “I want you to find “dogs” by scanning—taking a quick-look back—at your memories with the mind’s eye to find pictures, feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Write your answer and draw or sketch what you imagine.”
Note: When first introducing visualizing words, the practice responses/lessons can be oral.
Try Longer and More Complex Sentences
From 2-word real and surreal sentences, continue with longer and more complex sentences, for example:
- Lightning struck the tree.
- The trees’ leaves changed colors in the fall.
- The father teaches his young daughter how to ride a bicycle.
- She practiced tennis by hitting balls against on the handball court in the schoolyard,
- smashing them hard off the walls, one shot after the other, running side-to-side, forward and back, to reach the bouncing balls.
- One day, while riding the bus to school, millions of butterflies came in through the windows, filling up every inch of space, covering me, and also, the other passengers, and made us into human butterfly people.
Follow through with the basic questions—pictures, feelings, and thoughts experienced—to get your child to see what happens in the mind after reading the sentence:
- “What picture(s) do you see in your mind?”
- “What feelings, thoughts, and experiences are triggered by the mind-picture(s)?”
- “Draw or sketch what you see in your imagination.”
- “Who or what is viewing the mind-picture?”
- “Where do you see this mind-picture?”
- “How is visualization or imagining like watching a movie?”
Drawing or sketching the mind-pictures reinforces the visualization process. Also, ask them to explain their drawings: “What is happening in this scene?”
Part 2: “Contemplation Music Writing”
“Reading-and-Imagining” connects to the second part of the project, “Contemplation Music Writing,” mainly through the similar fundamental skills taught: visualizing, creating, thinking, feeling, and experiencing. These basic learning skills make the reading activities effective multi-sensory morning “workouts” because they energize and motivate kids.
The Music Activity: Contemplating Inner Experience Listening to Music
The purpose of the counting activity is showing kids firsthand what inner experiences are. These practice exercises act as a lead-in to the music writing activities.
- “I am going to play 10 minutes of music for you to listen to with your eyes closed.”
- “Sit back, relax, and put your head down on the table/desk.”
- “’Contemplate your experiences’ while listening to the music.”
- “To contemplate your experiences, means to look closely and carefully at whatever is happening in your mind and imagination while the music plays.”
- “When the music stops, take 1 minute of ‘think time,’ to recall your inner experiences,
and then write about whatever happened inside yourself.”
- “Search for and re-view any mind-pictures that might have come up.”
- “Check out any feelings and thoughts that came up while listening.”
- “Write as many experiences as you can remember on your paper.
Key Notes about Contemplation Music Writing
The main purposes of the two-part project is to:
- Help children become aware of the internal skills needed for for learning and learning how to learn.
- See what happens inside their heads while reading and writing.
- Become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent.
- Give kids plenty of time to understand and appreciate the contemplation process. One key to successfully implementing Contemplation Music Writing is doing it regularly: tri-weekly sessions will impact a kid’s way of thinking, perceiving, and experiencing the inside-and-outside worlds.
- As the contemplation writing sessions accumulate, children increase their self-awareness and inner-sight or seeing inside. They learn about the contemplation process and enjoy the music as it soothes them into their world(s). Experiencing one’s self is an important part of the learning process. If kids are aware of the mind’s ability to observe, record, visualize, re-create, and create pictures, they have discovered a way to get into the underlying worlds of reading and writing.
- Throughout the two-part project you’re relying on the child’s written and oral responses to develop the lessons, and you never know what you’re going to get, which can make things a little tenuous. Their answers—and your questions—will make up the discussions following every writing lesson. The combination of questions-and-answers, an inquiry- and passion-based approach, will improve and expand the communication between parent-teacher-and-child/student.
Music for the Contemplation Writing Lessons
Use music, from popular (Top 40) to classical, or their “playlist of favorite songs,” so kids can encounter themselves and experience the feelings and sensations associated with their inside worlds. They will learn to see what brings them up-and-down, and create a positive attitude towards the art of contemplation, thinking creatively as well as critically, and develop self-expression skills. You also want that same attitude towards your communication with them.
Even though some of your child’s contemplation writings might show negativity, that’s fine. It will be the experience of music and contemplation and then, in turn, expressing and discussing it with you, that will provide the release of emotions.
The music I used—from the 80s—included songs by Michael Jackson, Whitney Huston, Lionel Ritchie, Peaches and Herb, Eddie Grant, Billy Joel, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, and the Police, as well as meditative classical music, flute music by Carlos Nakai (Native American) and Werner John, and meditation tapes of ocean sounds, for example. You can also let your child choose his/her favorite music from their playlists and iTunes repertoire.
I experimented with different kinds of music for many years and discovered that most of the selections worked because they helped ease kids into peaceful journeys of self-discovery as well as self-motivation. The combination of inner-sight, awareness, and energy became the fuel that created a positive learning environment in the classroom.
As an inner-city schoolteacher, Jeffrey Pflaum created innovative projects in reading, writing, thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, poetry, concentration, and vocabulary. He has written a book titled Motivating Teen and Preteen Readers: How Teachers and Parents Can Lead the Way.