This, from poet Sara Holbrook, who found some questions on a Texas achievement test, about poems she herself wrote, difficult to answer:
I have a tendency to get a little ranty about this subject, as I have always considered it risky business to teach a young person that it’s possible to know what someone else meant when they wrote something. It’s not that I don’t think it can be interesting or edifying to speculate about what someone might have meant, but to imagine that we can know without asking, or let anyone have the authority of knowing, yikes. Anyway, because I have the aforementioned ranty-ness tendency, I liked this characterization from Sara Holbrook. Big baloney sandwich. I found a triangular (lover of words and math that I am) drawing of one here to really drive the point home for myself.
I’m working my way through all of Dan Roam’s books about how simple drawings, alongside a few words, can bring ideas to life. I’ve finished The Back of the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah, and now I’m reading Unfolding the Napkin.
Dan points out that in school we are trained to communicate almost exclusively in words – drawing is relegated to art or free time. Yet pictures are much closer relatives to experience than words, and as young children are attempting to make sense of and assimilate what’s happening and what they’re being told, their first impulse is often to draw. We’ll grant them that, but not for long before we want them to focus their attention on reading and writing, shoving the drawing to the periphery (at best). I’ve been wondering what would happen if we let them draw as much as and for as long as they are compelled to. How would it influence their development? What effect would it have on how they communicate? Would some processes speed up and some slow down?
It’s been interesting, in the course of my exploration of Dan’s visual thinking work, for me to try to train myself to expand the way I think about communicating, to try to incorporate images into the way I share something I’m trying to say. It feels very difficult, but also as though if I figure it out, it’ll be a relief not to be quite so dependent on one mode.