I like to compare reading and writing with dancing. I am not good at motor planning, so I need explicit dance instruction that shows each step slowly—practiced over and over—and still more practice putting steps together. But a natural dancer, with naturally strong coordination and motor planning skills, learns basic steps easily without as much explicit training, and then easily consolidates those steps into a fluent routine. The strong dancer who easily masters a repertoire is free to improvise. Improvisation brings forth innovative ideas that inspire us all.
I have noticed over the years that my students who struggle the most are the ones who teach me how to teach. Like my dancing, the struggling student does not have the natural aptitude needed to gain automaticity in some or all reading and writing skills. Therefore, I puzzle out the best ways to teach each student the steps, as well as the entire reading routine. Students who struggle remind me that my teaching needs to be both Visible and Enjoyable.
Children with stronger reading and writing skills benefit from teaching that is Visible and Enjoyable, as well. They naturally create reading and writing games because their skills help them to explore with joy. They improvise and then innovate, much like a dancer. Their innovative ideas can be borrowed and modified, to the benefit of all. We want to use creative ideas to encourage our student’s sense of fun. Then we can sit back and enjoy the language-rich play they create.
Any time we can make the process easy to follow (Visible) and interesting (Enjoyable), it is a win for all. As in the dance metaphor, music that has an obvious beat is easier to follow. Music that I enjoy inspires me to overcome my awkwardness. If I don’t like the music, I tend to sit on the sideline and watch. Or I find something else to do.
One way I try to make reading and writing more Visible and Enjoyable is by using visually interesting art concepts. If you are interested in learning more about how to link the visual arts to your language arts program, my colleague and artist friend, Tracy Molitors, has a blog: Connecting Art to Language Arts. You can also connect to Tracy’s blog via the link on the right side of the screen!