Saturday, August 3, 2013

Visualizing in Math

One more day until the hop!

Sneak peek of my freebie:

And baaaaack to the math!
I've gotten into the swing of things with this book. Chapter Five is all about visualizing. I have to give credit to my parents, in that they fostered a love of books in my sister and me when we were little.  I have many, many memories of being read to by both of them, and trips to the library.  And I can remember that on any shopping trip, even though they might say no to cookies, or chips, or a new album- they really rarely, IF EVER, said no to a book.  But I never had any idea that the way I read a book was no the way that other people read a book.

I think it was one of my first years teaching when I was reading aloud to my students and something came up about what did so and so look like, or whatnot- and they said that they had no idea.  And I said, but aren't you watching the movie in your head?  Flabbergasted.  They had no idea that they were supposed to be seeing something in their head as they read and I had no idea that was possible.  And once finding that out- well how in the heck do you teach them to do something you just know HOW to do?  Without even thinking about it.  I'm glad Laney has something to say on this subject.

There is a good point made at the beginning of the chapter about how we've actually become passive viewers in our current society that is inundated with images.  You'd think it wouldn't work that way- but with all of the images provided for children nowadays- they haven't had to come up with their own.  Which now that I think about it, we didn't have TV in our home for quite a bit of my early years.  I think we got a VCR maybe when I was in second grade, so that might point to why visualizing was an easy skill for me- as I had no other outlet for it.

I'm thinking about different lessons I teach where the students struggle in visualization not connected to reading.  Maps for instance.  I think this points towards a visualization problem when they can't make the move from drawing something head-on to drawing it from up above.  I'm thinking about geometry when I try to get them to see the different faces of three dimensional shapes and how they can recognize some of them but not all.  And I think about how I just plod on, not understanding why they can't transition over.

Wonderfully- Laney's chapter included seven steps to building the ability to visualize- because they have to have this ability BEFORE you can teach them how to use the strategy.

The first step being creating mental images of observed concrete objects.  I think I do this somewhat when I do quick images in the classroom with ten frames.  But that's a stretch for them too.  So I think this year I should start with things that are more familiar.  A stuffed animal.  A potted plant.  My squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich I'm saving for lunch.  Having them really look at something, and then hiding it and having them visualize it in their heads and describe it.

It reminds me too of a board game I have had sitting in my closet for years called Stare:

The basic idea is that you show them a picture and they have sixty seconds to stare at it and try to remember everything they see.  Then you put the picture away and ask them questions.  Definitely for more advanced visualizers- but I think you could easily start with some simpler pictures to work your way up to this sort of level.

I am also reminded of those pictures where you are supposed to spot the differences:

Not exactly the same concept- but I think it might help to train the eye and the brain.
I can see tying this early practice into my other content areas as I show them examples of rain gauges or thermometers and have them practice visualizing those.  Or I bring in examples of natural, capital, and human resources and have them visualize and describe those.  Seems like a quick, easy activity you could do in the first two minutes of carpet time.
The next step is to create elaborate mental images of imagined concrete objects.  Something they saw last week- or earlier that day at their home, or a favorite box of cereal at the grocery store.  Their mother's face.  Still, an easy enough pursuit the first couple of minutes of gathering on the carpet.
She goes on through five more steps to help your kids become champion visualizers and ready for the strategy lesson to apply when doing math work.  It would be nice of course if there was a time-frame given for how long this takes.  But I have to remind myself that kids learn at different rates.  And I can't assume they will all get it in the same time frame.  I think I'll start out with step one for the first couple of weeks and then see where the kids are.  But it looks like this will probably be a first quarter of lessons.
In helping the kids visualize math problems- story problems that is- I do like to have the kids practice acting them out before we solve.  They take great delight in pretending to be Franco giving away collections of shells to Sally and Jake.  It gives them something to think back on when they sit down to work a problem.  But it is important to translate this into their heads because they will not always be able to get up and put on a skit.  That would probably be frowned upon during standardized testing to say the least.
It's important to have them draw out their visualization and practice verbally describing it as well- as that will be the only way for you to check on their progress as visualizers.
Another thing Laney suggests is taking a picture walk of a math text.  Can I tell you I was stunned for a second when I read that?  I do picture walks all the time in guided reading groups, but have I ever ever ever taken a picture walk of a math book?  Jeepers.  The things I don't think of.  It's mind boggling.  And I can remember that when I was teaching non-fiction text features we had a hard time finding charts vs. graphs.  Now I know to really hunt for these all across the year so the kids can develop that bank of representations.
I liked how she tied in visualizing to the weekly poem idea.  A lot of us do that in the classroom already, and being able to take what I've already got going on and just add in a new twist is going to be great to help me work this into my teaching habits.  I did a Pinterest search for "mental images" and found tons of poems that can be used for visualization activities.  This is a poem my granny was telling me about a few years ago when she came to visit me. I found it on this site.  I wonder what my kids would do with this poem, anchored in contradictions.  Would they notice right away?  How would they choose to make sense of it?  Just oodles of ideas bursting forth after reading this chapter.

Again, I've linked this post to a book study that was hosted by Primary Inspired.  Please go there to see what other folks had to say on this subject.

What sorts of visualizing activities do you do in your classroom?  Do you use them in other areas aside from reading?

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1 comment:

  1. You know I'm embarrassed to say that we don't do a lot of visualization activities either, beyond the ten frames and dot cards.
    This sounds like a pretty good book!