Sunday, April 24, 2011

Head-Moving While Reading, from RED FLAGS for Primary Teachers

It is September; Valerie is appropriately tentative as she reads a simple repeated book.  She is really reading, though, as opposed to reciting a book she has heard before.  She is a tall, self-contained child, a little shy.
I know she is really reading because, she is moving her head from side to side, using her whole head to track the words.  Even in September, this is a flag.
Certainly it is helpful to turn your whole head to see things that are to the right and to the left of your body.  Knowing what is on either side of you is essential when walking, running, driving, and doing other activities.  When you are reading, though, turning your head is an unnecessarily large movement which does not serve you as a reader.  One of the things you must do as you read, obviously, is to track words from left to right across a page, interpreting the black squiggles as letters which make sounds which make words in some indefinable way inside her brain.  But the page is not very wide, and moving your head as you read is, at the very least, inefficient. 
It is actually not a terrible thing to move your head if you are five or six but it is not a good habit to get into.  Every year Valerie will have to read more in school; moving her head will make her tired, and reading will not be fun.  She will also not be fluent enough: moving her head takes more time; she must learn to read ever faster to keep up.
I want Valerie to hold her head steady while she reads, and to move only her eyes.  Her eyes must learn to move independently from the movement of her head. So I will routinely do exercises with her, as she reads with me, to convince her to keep her head still and move only her eyes to track print.

Try  BEANIE BABY to start with.... 
            If a child continues to move his head back and forth as he follows the pencil or other item back and forth, first tell him he can’t move his head. If the head is still turning as the child reads, put a Beanie Baby on his head to stabilize it.  Sometimes (with children older than seven – they are embarrassed), I use a beanbag instead.  Any small stuffed creature will do, but my favorites are Beanie Babies because they are usually just the right size to balance on a primary head.
            Children should be able to track without moving the head by age 6.
For the first few times you ask her to read with a doll on her head, she will laugh and wonder if you are out of your mind.  If she turns her head, though, the creature will fall off.  Having it there, providing proprioceptive input, will build an awareness of keeping her head still while she reads.  To become a competent reader, it is absolutely necessary to acquire this efficiency, the efficiency of not moving.  Sometimes a little pressure on the top of the head helps – I am not sure why – and will help her develop a habit of not moving her head.   (If you have lice issues in your school, put the dog or the beanbag in a plastic bag overnight every night.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Education - poem


Is not a science, although
            Investigation can play a part

Is not a craft, although
            Organization can play a part

Education is an art
            Inspiration and constant revision

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