Dr Jane Williams, Bindy Cummings and Dr Tessa Grigg
At GymbaROO-KindyROO each week our program includes a word and picture segment that is part of the Treasure Bag time. In conjunction with seeing, feeling and sometimes hearing an object taken from the Treasure Bag, children are asked to ‘track’ a picture and watch a quickly flashed word that represents the name of the Treasure Bag object. Children are also given a copy of the word and picture which they are encouraged to paste into their own visualisation booklet and use at home. It is important that parents understand why we consider this segment and home learning opportunity, such a significant part of the GymbaROO-KindyROO program, so below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about this part of our program.
What is visualisation, why is it important and how does it develop?
Visualisation plays a crucial role in the ability to learn. It is the ability to ‘see in our mind’s eye’ a word, a picture, or a memory. This ability is very important for reading comprehension, mathematics and learning in general. Visualisation is a skill that develops from the maturation of other processes and experiences. It does not occur ‘out of the blue’ and while it may not mature for several years, even young babies are able to learn that many objects ‘look like they feel and feel like they look’, through feeling, hearing, tasting and smelling. Gradually babies and young children learn to visualise without any hands-on experience, through having ‘been there and done that’. This is why an important part of our word and picture at Treasure Bag time includes the objects to feel, see and listen to (if any sound) – for all ages.
Why do we move the picture from side to side?
The ‘word and picture’ are important for visual stimulation. Children are not born with the visual skills they need for school. These need to develop over the earliest years. When we move the picture from side to side, asking the children to follow it, we are specifically working on the visual skills for tracking and focusing. To be able to eventually read easily in the classroom, the eyes need to be able to focus and track from left to right across a page and then jump back again to read the next line in a smooth action, (without head movement for our three-year-olds and up).
Why do we flash words?
The more experience an infant or child has of words and pictures, the more readily visualisation skills will develop. Importantly, to assist in the development of visualisation, at the same time as clearly saying the word, flashing the word is beneficial as the brain creates a clear image. In the early years of life, the right side of the brain is more active, and this side of the brain is responsible for ‘whole’ word recognition. While we don’t flash the picture, both the picture and the word have their own individual shape. For example, just as a child will begin to recognise a picture of a cat if seen repetitively, so too will the child recognise the shape of the word ‘cat’, if seen enough times – no other word has the same shape (pattern recognition). The flashed words develop a child’s experience with the written word. Over time, your child could build a large vocabulary of whole words, if there is enough fun and repetition that goes with it. Always use your visualisation books for an enjoyable, bonding time together!
The brain is always attracted to the picture first, which is why we track the picture and then flash the word. So, remember, when you are using the visualisation word and picture at home, the picture should be tracked first and then the word flashed.
Why do we flash the word and picture so fast?
The faster you can flash a word, the more likely it is to be learned by your baby or child. This is related to the eye fixating four times per second and creating a ‘picture’ in the mind’s eye (early visualisation), i.e., it takes ¼ of a second for the brain to take the ‘picture’ of the word. As this is a visualisation technique, being able to flash the word quickly is more suited to our aim in GymbaROO-KindyROO.
What other visual skill development skills are encouraged through the GymbaROO-KindyROO program?
Activities that stimulate visual development can be found in every lesson of GymbaROO-KindyROO program. Eye movement skills (tracking), visual-spatial skills (near point and far point fixation, convergence and divergence) and visual analysis skills (e.g., What is this? What colour is this? Where is the…? How many?), are a part of so many of the activities in our program. Vestibular work (wheelbarrows, hanging, tumbling, swinging etc.), climbing equipment (visuospatial), musical instruments, Treasure Bag and exercises also have an important visual component. Tummy time for babies, along with creeping and crawling, are highly encouraged for their important function in stimulating visual development.
How does asking children to bring their own item for the Treasure Bag help learning?
Linking the word and picture to your child’s own toy/book/picture/object is important for memory and learning, so if you are unable to bring along your own Treasure Bag item to GymbaROO-KindyROO each week, make sure you find something at home, or in your local library, that the child sees as belonging to them. Something that is ‘mine’ has a powerful, long-lasting effect on visualisation, memory and recollection, so it’s worth making the effort! (Leisman, 2018)
Why do we use the ‘Jump into Reading’ program for Levels 7 and 8?
For children in Levels 7 and 8, there is a detailed article here about the visualisation progressions at GymbaROO-KindyROO, in particular the ‘Jump into Reading’ program.
When you come along to GymbaROO-KindyROO, enjoy the word and picture segment of Treasure Bag, bring along an object that the child sees as belonging to them, and encourage your child to participate, no matter their age – tiny babies through to pre-school aged children, they are all learning! The word and picture segment may only be one of the many activities we do at GymbaROO-KindyROO, but it has an important purpose.
Leisman, Gerry (2018.) “I’ and “Thou”: Cognitive-motor interaction in the development of individuation. Presentation at the Movement and Cognition conference, Harvard University Medical School, July 2018.
Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is a Director of GymbaROO and KindyROO. Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development.
Dr Tessa Grigg (PhD, Dip Tch Primary and ECE) is an experienced teacher and the Research and Education Manager at GymbaROO-KindyROO.
Bindy Cummings (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, a GymbaROO early childhood neuro-developmental consultant and the co-creator of GymbaROO’s Active Babies Smart Kids series. She has been writing articles for GymbaROO’s First Steps magazine, digital platforms and media for over ten years