“My son reads, closes the book, and looks blank.”

A Mom asked me, “How do you make reading comprehension go up?”

A teacher asked, “What steps can I take to help the students improve their memories of what they have read?”

The Triple M is the short answer:

“Make Mental Movies.”

Here is an excerpt of what I wrote to the teacher (which I also shared with the Mom):

Slow reading is symptomatic of inadequate comprehension in the reading process. When you slow down and read even slower (at first) and take the time to learn how to make pictures (still photos, and especially movies) in your mind’s eye as you slowly read forward now, you will find two astounding things happening:

(1) The brain quickly learns to make movies faster and faster as you persist in this initially slow process.

(2) Even when the initial reading is not fast, the movies dramatically increase comprehension and memory, so the brain quickly figures out, hey, I can go faster now. As the speed of reading and making movies simultaneously goes up, astoundingly and paradoxically, the comprehension and memory zoom up also.

Hey, try it with some simple “Dick and Jane” stuff initially and don’t even read a full sentence at first. Example:

“The black dog chased the red ball down the street,” is not read altogether to completion at first.

First you read only “The black dog…” and make a picture in your head of a black dog.

Then you read only “chased the red ball” and make a movie in your head of the black dog chasing the red ball.
Then you read “down the street” and make a movie with background now, if you haven’t already done that background part, and see the action!

Then, rewind the movie by twirling your hand around in the air in a tight circle, as if you were rewinding a video “manually.”
Smile and laugh, eh?

Then, as I say to my proteges that I am mentoring:

“Now remember, don’t remember everything;
just watch the movie and see what happens.” 😮

After they watch the movie, I ask them questions to see what their comprehension and memory is. I ask “sneak questions” like, “What is the dog running on?” Or, “What is in the background?” Or “What is in the sky above?” Or “What is in front of the dog?” Or “What is the dog running on?” Or
“Does the dog have a short tail or a long one?”

The beauty of this protocol and the questions is that everybody has different answers to the same “content” question, proving that individuality and vastly improved memory and comprehension go hand in hand.

Beautiful, eh?

Here’s the “goofy mantra”:

Go… slowly… even more slowly… at first.
Then as you patiently plod along… smile… at first… laugh… the pace picks up automatically…
slowly over time… and soon…

You are going a hundred miles an hour and memory and comprehension are beautiful, not to mention your movies.

Start slowly… very slowly… lots of time to learn to go fast!!! 😮

Love your initial lack of speed now . . . smile . . . laugh . . .

Have fun being a slow really fast learner. 😮

Doc Meek, Active Learning Specialist

Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA; South Jordan, Utah, USA

5 Responses to ““My son reads, closes the book, and looks blank.””

  • Great recommendations, which are absolutely supported by the research I’ve read (little) and my real-life experiences in the classroom with students (lots!). This is another reason why picture books should continue to be used in a purposeful, focused way with upper elementary and middle school students; it really trains them to create mental images, which in turn increases comprehension and retention.

  • Keith, I am so grateful to meet you via your comment on THE LEARNING CLINIC WORLDWIDE blog! You are just the kind of teacher we all want to get to know better!!! All students and adults need your kind of valuable knowledge. I hope it is OK to put your links in some future blog posts of mine? Let’s stay connected! Blessings, Doc Meek, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA; South Jordan, Utah, USA.

  • Uinise Langi:

    Wo. I love this “making movies” idea! It’s a universal skill that everyone can use. I’ll try it with my class next week and see how college students like it.

    p.s. I went to this “junk” store yesterday. Surprisingly, on one part of the store were books and books, and boxes upon boxes of children’s books. I found that one of the workers work for an organization that donates the books to children. Their goal is have more and more children under three develop a love of reading. She gave me a boxful of books to give away. I plan on distributing these to the wards so the nursery leaders can read to the little ones. They’re not church books, but should develop in children that love of reading.

  • Dear Uinise, I am glad you are teaching your college students the “Triple M” (“Make Mental Movies”) protocol so they can increase their reading and writing skills. They will love your for it, I am sure. I was also delighted to hear of the organization that wants children under three to develop a love of reading. This is the beginning of wisdom. Even though little children are not neurologically ready to read for many years in some cases, their love of books and reading cannot come to early. As they see adults loving books and reading, and as they experience adults or older children reading to them, and as they pretend to read by looking at the pictures they see and telling you out loud what they are seeing/reading, they are being prepared to thrive in school. – Doc Meek, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

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