Why Johnny Student can’t Read

It has been said that a picture tells a thousand words in our brain and the same thousand words form the same picture. If this is the case, “Johnny Student” should be able to read, listen, speak, and write whether he learns by sight words or any other strategy. But what if it isn’t? What if a picture tells a thousand words, but only a few hundred words are processed? This could cause Johnny Student to most likely have a problem writing.

It is important to note that there are two modes of communication: the spoken word and the written word. However, both seem to be forms of the same component which is encoded meaning in which two senses are involved: the sense of hearing and vision. It appears to me that he main purpose served by words is to convey information orally or in writing.

If we look at a concrete item or an abstraction in the world around us, can we speak and write about them to another person or to an audience? If we watch a football game, can we speak and write about it? Of course, we can. However, how well we adhere to the rules of grammar is another thing.

Students process input such as principles, concepts, and laws of nature in the form of written or spoken words into information, and even by sight words. In my opinion, it really does not matter how the material is learned since the information learned does not become knowledge until it is comprehended. This means that the student should form a “still or action picture with meaning” in his imaging part of the brain. Now the concept of whole an its parts comes into the subject matter. The whole picture formed by the words, spoken or written, is composed of parts, details, color, size, etc linked by association and based on previous knowledge related to the topic (PKRT) the input is about.

The order of things goes like this: when an action or still picture in our environment is observed by the brain, it is turned into words (in some cases, more than a thousand); then it is processed by the brain into words by means of vision and the auditory modality. The words whether spoken or written, form a concept which is composed of units of thought. The concepts are turned into one whole picture by means of the electrical activity of the brain.

Previous knowledge related to the topic (PKRT) or just plain information recorded in our memory is recalled by the brain automatically. I have experimented doing this with the criminal justice students I teach in high school. I take note of all the observations I make as I the students process information that is presented by lecture, or on the board, into knowledge using their PKRT. Each student’s PKRT level is different. His unique PKRT should help the student to achieve comprehension. Teachers, as well as writers, use PKRT found in metaphors, analogies, examples, and illustrations that relate to the input to aid the student and reader in comprehension, retention, and recal.

This whole picture is composed of parts connected by details. The details are linked by associations made in the brain in linear format (they relate to each other by cause and effect or order). Thus if the words are understood, the information becomes knowledge and is stored in the memory system. If there is no comprehension, the input remains just information that we may or may not realled.

In order for us to speak or write about it, we must recall the whole picture and its parts. It takes a stimulus, such as a question related and connected to the mental picture we have formed, for us to recall it in whole or in part. This means that we must see the same picture again in our imaging part of the brain in order for us to transpose it into words so that we can correctly convey it orally or in writing using the rules of grammar.

As someone else reads or listens to the words we write or speak, they should be able to form the same approximate picture in their brain.

When it comes the question why Johnny can’t read, write, speak, or listen it could very well be because the proper attention is not being rendered to the input process. While Johnny may pay perfect attention to what he likes and wants to to do such as rap or social topics, he will shut down his attention when it comes to paying attention to academic topics. An example of what I mean is daydreaming which lead to what I call “blackouts” into the memory system.

Some students may have an auditory word processing problem like most of us have. By that I mean the student reads or listens to the words, but not the concept. If this is the case, there the brain will have a “blackouts” in the formation of the mental picture and the memorizing process. If the brain undergoes “blackouts” due to defective attention, comprehension will most likely not take place.

The use of sight words may accomodate some students when they are leaning to encode basic definitions. However, once the student matures, he will begin to use his PKRT to learn to gain more knowledge. The main thing in learning is “strict and effective attention” to the presentation of the material; it realy should not matter much which strategy is used. I do not think that a student will be able to write and increase his reading power in regard to academic material if he becomes distracted and pays “defective attention” to the input. This could be one of the many reasons why Johnny can’t read. Without proper attention, a picture cannot tell a thousand words and a thousand words will not exist in the memory of a student to form the same picture.