I was working on speed reading with a group of 12 year olds last week. They had practised using a guide to train their eyes to move more quickly across a page and to extend their natural peripheral vision. Now we were combining fluency with understanding: they had to read a passage with comprehension. The youngsters worked out that this task was made simpler if they knew what was expected: reading the questions first is enormously helpful in predicting what the text is about. Hardly rocket science, but many young learners don’t come to strategies like this by themselves. The task of decoding is sometimes so thankless for some individuals that doing it in addition to putting their minds to higher order thinking is well nigh impossible.
(By the way I shall be putting my Speed Reading programme on Glow this week I hope. Watch this space if you’re interested.)

One boy talked about getting a new family car. He had never noticed the particular make and model before but now seemed to see them everywhere. We discussed the term ‘mindfulness’ as a tool to enable meaning making. It helps us acquire knowledge, gain perspective, deepen awareness and begin to make sense not just of the author’s perspective but of one’s own standpoint.

Sometimes we need someone else to spark the connections. For example, in my post about the Teach Meet session, Alan Coady commented on the fact that many people dislike the sound of their own voices. As I was driving around with this thought in my head, there were 2 radio items that reverberated with me. First, on Word of Mouth, Michael Rosen’s guest was talking about the importance, and relative novelty, of radio plays. Stories have been told since the beginning of time, of course, but always with the listener observing the teller, whether an individual or a troupe, and so picking up visual clues. Only on the last 100 years have we had the opportunity to listen without other diversions. The discussion centred on the unique nature of listening without visual distractions: how challenging it is for most (impossible for some), and how rewarding.

The second link came 2 days later when I heard a discussion on Woman’s Hour about tones and registers used by people when talking in different languages. (Apologies: I’m so late with this post that the items are no longer available to listen again). Apparently bilingual women whose voices are quite low when speaking English adopt (unintentionally) a much higher pitch when speaking Japanese. The consensus was that cultural norms dictate tone and register. I was reminded of how my sons, within 2 weeks of our move to Scotland aged 6 and 8, adopted Fife accents when speaking on the phone to new friends. When asked to put the accent on for doting grandparents they were unable to do so: it was the context that was wrong.

Then my mind wandered on to other matters.

I would have been interested in these items anyway but there is no doubt that my mindfulness was aroused and my recall enhanced because of Alan’s brief comment.