Get the Picture

Use movies to help your child create mental models before he tackles a challenging book.



Brother Sister eat cereal

Many struggling readers have trouble in science, history, and social studies classes. As readers, they have mastered the ability to decode words with a comfortable level of fluency. What they cannot do, however, is comprehend the meaning behind the words they are decoding.

Researchers suggest what might be happening is that these students cannot create a mental model — or picture — of what they are reading. They may be able to get through every word on a page, but when they reach the end of a paragraph or page, the look in their eye clearly says, "I have no idea what I am reading." How do we help them to better create mental models of the text they are reading?

The answer may partially be at the movies . . . or on your DVD player. Video is a powerful way of providing the necessary mental models needed for struggling — and not-so-struggling — readers. In fact, if you provide these video models to your child well before she tackles new texts, her chance of successfully comprehending that text more than doubles.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Winged Migration: In this film, airborne cameras track the migratory patterns of flocks of birds over a three-year period. The narrator, speaking over spectacular visuals, describes migration in easy-to-understand terms.
  • Families of Korea: This visit to North Korea focuses on the lives of two families: one that lives on a farm, the other in a city. The differences between the two families are strikingly apparent as we see them go about their everyday school and home activities.
  • Mad Hot Ballroom: This is the story of New York City 5th graders taking ballroom dance classes and then competing in a citywide dance challenge. It is a great study of perseverance, hard work, hopes, and dreams. It's also good to see (and remember) what other kids do when — after working so hard — they still don't get the results they had hoped for.
  • Dear America: These video adaptations of the book series let your child experience American history through the eyes of kids her age.
  • Royal Diaries: Imagine if you could read the private journal of a teen queen! These videos, also adapted from books, give a peek into the young lives of Cleopatra, Isabel of Spain, and Elizabeth I.

So go ahead. Pop up some popcorn. Put a DVD in the player, and start building mental models.

Reading Comprehension
Attention and Focus
Challenges & Disabilities
Critical Thinking
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Reading Intervention
Reading Comprehension