Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Visualize: How Does Having a Vision Help Students Solve Problems? #AtoZChallenge Letter V #SOL16

During April I'm participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.

Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a
letter of the alphabet with the goal of writing 26 posts.
April is also National Poetry Month.
It's Tuesday, and that means Slice of Life Story Challenge
Sponsored by the team at Two Writing Teachers
Check out other slices while you're blog surfing.
Today I introduced the persuasive speech assignment to my Fundamentals of Communication (speech) classes. For years I've required students to use MONROE'S MOTIVATED SEQUENCE as an organizing structure for the speech.

The Motivated Sequence has five sections:

  • Attention
  • Need
  • Satisfaction
  • Visualization
  • Action
My colleague Robin and I discussed the difficulties students have with the VISUALIZATION step this afternoon, and we have discussed requiring students to structure their speeches based on a simple problem/solution format. 

Why do students have so much difficulty with constructing the VISUALIZATION step in their speeches? I've pondered this question. Simply, we live in a world of short-sightedness. 

The visualization step requires students to identify how a solution to a problem will benefit the audience. This is positive visualization. Students must also include negative visualization, the dystopian scenario we face when we don't act. 

I thought about our country's lack of vision and the impact it has on students as I watch LAST WEEK TONIGHT with JOHN OLIVER this evening. This week's episode focused on the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that has a major budget shortfall. 

No other "news" program offers such a superb analysis of issues. I would love to use Oliver's segments in my classes, but he often uses taboo words and sexual language inappropriate for ninth graders. 

Still, the Puerto Rico segment follows the MMS pattern closely. 
  • Oliver gets our attention with humor and identifies the topic: the economic crisis in Puerto Rico.
  • Oliver explains the problem, its impact on Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. He then explains the causes of the problem and the extent of it. In this section Oliver offers statistical evidence, expert testimony and news reports. He cites Sec 936, which during the 1970s enticed businesses to Puerto Rico. He even appeals to our sense of pathos by calling on the writer and star of the Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda.  
  • For the SATISFACTION step, Oliver identifies what must happen for Puerto Rico to recover from the crisis: Congress must act! One solution would allow Puerto Rico to file bankruptcy. Oliver even shows how attempts to solve Puerto Rico's problems have failed, including an ad campaign designed to entice rich folks to the island. In the SATISFACTION step MMS requires the speaker to offer refutation, which Oliver does when he offers support for passage of H.R. 4900, but it has opposition, which Oliver addresses. 
  • The VISUALIZATION: In this section, Oliver gets creative and calls on Miranda to rap about Puerto Rico's dilemma. Mianda compares Puerto Rico's destiny to the Titanic without "a way out." It's a heart-wrenching plea.
  • ACTION: "Help Puerto Rico. It's just a hundred miles across," pleads Miranda. The subtext here is that we all need to call on Congress to do something, to take action. 
All this brings me back to the problem students have with the VISUALIZATION step. How can I or any teacher teach students to have a vision when we have leaders who offer little to no ability or willingness to act to solve the problems we face? 

As a child growing up in a Southern Baptist home and church, I learned (read: memorized) many bible verses and have long loved the beauty of the KJV. Among the verses than meant--and mean--much to me is Proverbs 29:18. "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." It's this part of the verse I clung to and used as a compass for setting goals and striving to reach them. 

This idea of creating a vision both for their speeches and visualizing the possibilities for their lives motivates me to guide my students in their use of MMS. I want them to visualize possibilities for themselves and for our country, even if our leaders won't. 


  1. I don't work with young people every day, but a few thoughts come to mind with the difficulty of visualization for kids.

    Unless, it's a very personal issue that they're writing about, they just don't have enough life experience to truly understand the issue and easily discuss the various consequences of it. I remember when I was graduating high school, my principal gave me some advice. He said I should figure out where I wanted to live and then figure out a job I would want to do there. The words sounded wise, but I had only lived in one place, so at that point I couldn't use what he said. Later I understood the wisdom of it when I ended up in a field that centralized in only a few places. It was good advice, but I couldn't use it because of lack of experience. I couldn't really imagine my future in those terms.

    Also, life today, especially for younger people, is lived, talked, written in very abbreviated ways. And often a lot of different things are happening at once. Some say this causes externally induced ADD. One of the traits of a person with ADD is that they live in the present and find it hard to project into the future. (This is not always a bad thing.) I don't know, but maybe today's brains are not developing with as much visualization of the future as they were a decade or so ago. They are too busy being bombarded with the present.

    And there is also the point that you made, that many of today's leaders don't set a good example of looking into the future. Take for instance my local county where they spend every penny they have when things are good without putting anything away for downturns. Then they raise taxes.

    1. Yes, to all you say. However, your points work more to validate my goals of teaching these skills to kids. We do group work based on MMS prior to the speeches, and this year kids are creating a Poster Session to correspond to the speeches. They'll present the posters first and tweak their speeches based on the Poster Session feedback.

    2. You have such good goals for your students. I only wish my kids had had a teacher like you.

  2. I sent this off to a friend who is working on persuasive writing with her students. Thanks so much.

    1. Very cool. Thank you. I'm always happy to share teaching resources.

  3. You've given me something to think about!

  4. You've given me something to think about!

  5. It sounds like you have a very thorough method for teaching them. Maybe you could provide them with more examples for the step they struggle with?

    Yvonne V