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The following article makes the case for the relationship between visual processing and comprehension. PACE, and specifically Master the Code build on these discoveries to accelerate both reading and comprehension.


Long-term visual memory and methods for increasing memory were studied intensely in the late 1960s.

Numerous studies examined the effects of pictorial representation when compared with verbal representation, and how varying modalities of information affect long-term memory (Dwyer, 1978, 1985; Nickerson, 1965; Paivo,1971).

Such an effect, labeled the "pictorial superiority effect," clearly addresses the advantage found in presenting material using graphic aids to increase cognition and retention (Humphreys & Bruce, 1989). Shepard (1967), for example, found that subjects in one study were 98% more accurate when recalling pictures or graphics, than when recalling text. At the same time, Paivo's (1971) dual coding theory suggests that verbal and pictorial memory exist as two interlinked but discrete long-term memory systems.

Paivo, Nickerson, and Shepard's work also strongly suggest that the addition of visualization aids such as graphics, pictures, annotations, or movies increase the probability of accurate recall for information. These early studies give rise to the suggestion that determining a strategy to increase comprehension, long-term memory, and accuracy of memory must include some system for increasing visualization (or structuring schema) through the use of graphics, pictures, additional information, or movies (Pettersson, 1995).

Visualizing and Verbalizing Method

This method says getting meaning from what you read comes from being able to make mental images. Kids are taught visual, sequential steps for putting details together to get the main idea.

Nanci Bell says kids can have all their language skills in order and still not comprehend what they read. The reading research practitioner and author of "Visualizing and Verbalizing" (Academy of Reading Publications, $39.95), believes that it's all a matter of integrating imagery with language. Bell believes that kids who can't comprehend are only able to visualize the parts, not the whole (gestalt) of what they read. Called the "Lindamood-Bell" language processes, her techniques show kids how to "apply language to something that is representational," explains Paul Worthington, director of Research and Development at Lindamood-Bell in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

"Difficulty in this cognitive skill causes individuals to grasp a part of what is read, rather than the whole. This contributes to weakness in reading comprehension," says Kimberly Wilson, clinical director of the Washington D.C. office of Lindamood-Bell. The processes take students from visualizing pictures, to words, to sentences, to whole paragraphs then finally whole page imaging.

The following ideas are adapted to Millie's interests from Lindamood-Bell processes for reading comprehension:

1. Acquire a copy of "Shoes," by Linda O'Keeffe (Workman, $11.95) and have Millie pick out a shoe and describe it to you in detail (make sure you haven't seen it beforehand). From her description, describe it back to her, using the Lindamood-Bell phraseology, "Your words made me picture . . . " Finally, look at the picture together and discuss which elements she omitted in her description. Then reverse the process by describing a shoe to her.

2. Lindamood-Bell suggests "structure words" to prompt oral description as students "image" a simple picture, a word, sentence or paragraph they're trying to remember. Use the words to trigger Millie's recall, especially when she's having trouble remembering details: what, where, when, movement, mood, size, color, number, shape, sound, background and perspective.

3. If Millie can't remember the main idea of the paragraph she just read, "Ask the student what the main thing they `image' is," suggests Wilson.

Start your comprehension coaching with reading topics kids like. Use intriguing, thought-provoking questions to help kids like Millie analyze, predict, summarize and draw conclusions from text. Help her to understand that the best part of reading is being able to step back from the words and think for herself.

Take her beyond purely structural methods for decoding new words and help her link unknown words to things she knows or things she loves. Use images. Maybe the beginning of comprehension for Millie will be a picture of an 18th-century dancing slipper in pale pink satin with a diamond-studded black bone buckle peeking from under a froth of ecru lace. One of the reasons that these learners read more slowly is that they seem less able to identify the organization of a passage of text (Wong and Wilson, 1984). Since efficient comprehension relies on the reader's ability to see the pattern or the direction that the writer is taking, parents and teachers can help these readers by spending more time on building background for the reading selection, both in the general sense of concept building and in the specific sense of creating a mental scheme for the text organization.

Many times, drawing a simple diagram can help these readers greatly.

Direct intervention of parent or teacher or tutor in the comprehension process increases reading comprehension in slower readers (Bos, 1982). These readers often need help with vocabulary and need reminders to summarize as they proceed. They also need to ask themselves questions about what they are reading. The parent can prompt thinking or can provide an insight into the language that may otherwise elude the reader.

One effective strategy for slower readers is to generate visual images of what is being read (Carnine and Kinder, 1985). For the reader to generate images, he or she must first be able to recognize the word. Assuming the reader knows how to recognize words, he or she needs concepts to visualize the flow of action represented on the page. The same kind of concept building techniques that work for average readers also work for slower readers. The slower reader, however, gains more from concrete experiences and images than from

abstract discussions. It is not enough for the parent to simply tell the slower reader to use visual images--the parent has to describe the images that occur in his or her own mind as he or she reads a particular passage, thus giving the child a concrete sense of what visual imagery means. Pictures, physical action, demonstrations, practice using words in interviews or in an exchange of views among peers are only a few of the ways that parents, tutors, or teachers can make the key vocabulary take root in the reader's mind.

Master the Code’s “sound to code” approach builds on the fine concepts pioneered by those sited above. As it was developed, the best of the available theory, and practices were wedded to the cognitive gains made possible by PACE training. Together, the combination is proving to produce unmatched gains in reading and comprehension levels in students of all ages. Copyright 2015