An Asset View: A Book Discussion with “Thank You Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco and a Biographical Study of Highly Accomplished Individuals with Dyslexia

Baruch HaShem

My intention of this Blogpost is to explore and harness the Dyslexic Advantage and all of our hidden personal assets.

In Part One, we will begin with a book discussion with “Thank You Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco. I will provide some resources for you to study the characters and the problem/solution of the narrative.

In Part Two, we will continue by learning about the Dyslexic Advantage and the book with this title by Brock and Fernette Eide. I bet, when we are done, that many of you will wish to be of the 10% of the population that has Dyslexia.

In Part Three, we will study the biographies of highly accomplished individuals with Dyslexia and take the time to think about the life lessons we can learn.

Finally, in Part Four, we will attempt to further recognize our own assets. However, it is not that simple. Humans are multidimensional and we can view ourselves and other from many perspectives, such as our intellectual and emotional intelligences, temperament such as resilience, our spirituality, and our neurological processes such as attention and memory.  We can use Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligence to get a nice start, but in reality, it is only one tip of the iceberg of what lies within our minds, hearts and souls and what we have inherited from our nature and the ecologies we find ourselves in.

I hope that we will realize that we have what it takes to conceive and pursue our own dreams and that we can help other do the same. I hope that we feel inspired and empowered to use our personal assets as we compensate for or grow our deficits that matter to us.

Part 1: Thank You Mr. Falker Read Aloud

I have many, many favorite books but “Thank You Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco has a very special place in my heart. I received my copy as an end of year gift from an extraordinary student that has been struggling with literacy learning. I will never forget the experience I had reading the book for my first time. My daughter, who has just completed Kindergarten, asked me to read the book for her. There we were sitting on the front the steps of our house, the first day of summer.

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Amazon Link

I read the first few pages and my emotions start to stir below the surface. I read a couple more pages, my voice starts shaking, I start tearing, I go to grab a tissue. I turn the page, I’m having a hard time squeezing my voice between little whimpers. I turn the page, I start weeping, there on the front step as my daughter watches with delight. I try to collect myself, but my emotions are pouring out of my eyes uncontrollably.

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Mr. Falker comes to save Trisha. But I am still weeping.

Why did Trisha have to wait so long to get the help she needed so badly? How many Trisha’s are out there waiting for their Mr. Falker? How can we find these Trishas before they endure so much suffering and tormenting from themselves and from others? Why should these children feel like they have no other choice but to helplessly hide in shame?

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You can watch Jane Kaczmark read the book here.  

https://youtu.be/abN2aP_Dzd0

Discussion Questions:

Here are some questions that you can use to facilitate discussion before, during and after the reading:

Before Reading:

  1. What makes a person smart?
  2. Do you think you are smart? Why or why not?
  3. What is the hardest thing you have ever learned how to do? Who helped you learn?
  4. What are you good at learning or doing?
  5. What is easy for you to learn or do?
  6. What is something hard that you really want to do but haven’t?

Questions for During the Reading: (Keep to a minimum to maintain the story’s momentum)

  1. Why is knowledge like honey?

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2. Why do you think Eric called Trisha to a mole?

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A small animal that lives underground in the dark

After Reading: 

  1. Do you think Trisha is smart? Why or why not? Provide evidence from the story?
  2. Why do you think Polacco wrote this story?
  3. What would happen if Mr. Falker was not Trisha’s teacher?
  4. What would happen if Mr. Falker was Trisha’s teacher in first grade?
  5. How did Mr. Falker help Trisha?
  6. Do you ever feel like the way Trisha in this story?

 

Character Study: 

Studying characters from stories helps us understand ourselves and the people around us. It helps us develop our social and emotional intelligence and the perspective that people are dynamic and not static. Reading narratives while making good connections help us develop two things. One, it develops compassion for ourselves and for others. Two, it helps us develop the ability to make better personal choices and choices in social situation.

You can use the following resources to help you study the characters in “Thank You Mr. Falker” and in the Biographical Study that will follow in Part 3.

Here is an anchor chart you can use as a support for analyzing characters.

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TPT Link

You can make a character map about Trisha or Mr. Falker.

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Trisha doesn’t always feel the same way through the book.

How is she feeling when she knows she will be going to school and learning to read?  How does she feel when the words are jumbled, and it’s not easy for her to read?        How does she feel when Mr. Falker works with her and helps her understand reading?  Here is a graphic organizer you can use to document how and the character changes in the beginning, middle and end of the narrative.

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TPT Link

You can also make a character continuum such as this one from ReadWriteThink.com.

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Following is a fun way to encourage learners to write a life event summary from the characters point of view.

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Facebook Profile Template 

Problem and Solution: 

Here is Problem and Solution Graphic Organizer where you can document the problem and solution in the story.

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There are six kinds of problems characters can encounter in narratives. What kind of problems did Trisha encounter in “Thank You Mr. Falker”?

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6 Kinds of Problems in Narrative Texts

What strategy did Mr. Falker use to teach Trisha the alphabet?

He used an effective technique from Orton Gillingham. He had Trisha write letters on the board giving her a way to experience the letters with multiple senses simultaneously.

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Trisha received VAKT- Visual, Auditory, Tactile and Kinesthetic input which effectively allowed her to store the letters in her long term memory.

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We also know that the large muscles are more effective in creating long term memories, since they make more brain centers fire. We can see this evidenced by comparing our memory of large muscle tasks and small muscle tasks. For instance, when I tried riding a bike after many years of not riding, it took me a couple of moments to find my balance and pedal off. On other hand, when I tried to teach my children how to hook rug, it took me thirty minutes to watch tutorials and practice even though I have completed a couple of hook rugs as a child.

Image result for riding a bike kid helmet Image result for hook rug

 

 

Part 2: An Exploration of the Dyslexic Advantage

What does Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso, George Washington, Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Jefferson, Steven Spielberg, Mohammed Ali, Whoopi Goldberg, Kobe Bryant, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad and Winston Churchill all have in common?

DYSLEXIA

 

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There are two sides to a coin.
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Did you know that many successful architects, lawyers, engineers—even best selling novelists—had difficulties as children learning to read and write? In this groundbreaking book, Brock and Fernette Eide explain how 20% of people, individuals with dyslexia, share a unique learning style that can create advantages in a classroom, at a job, or at home. Using their combined expertise in neurology and education, the authors show how these individuals not only perceive the written word differently but may also excel at spatial reasoning, see insightful connections that others simply miss, understand the world in stories, and display amazing creativity. Blending personal stories with hard science, The Dyslexic Advantage provides invaluable advice on how parents, educators, and individuals with dyslexia can recognize and use the strengths of the dyslexic learning style in: material reasoning (used by architects and engineers); interconnected reasoning (scientists and designers), narrative reasoning (novelists and lawyers); and dynamic reasoning (economists and entrepreneurs.) With prescriptive advice and inspiring testimonials, this paradigm-shifting book proves that dyslexia doesn’t have to be a detriment, but can often become an asset for success. (Amazon review)

Here is a visual where you can see the Dyslexic MIND Strengths. Dyslexics have a strength in various reasoning and high order thinking skills such as materials reasoning, interconnected reasoning, narrative reasoning, and dynamic reasoning, giving them an edge or an advantage in a couple of fields that you can see listed on the left.

To oversimplify the dyslexic mind, we can say that dyslexics are right brained.

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Dyslexics are really good at seeing the Gestalt, the full picture. Do you see the circles with the missing slices or do you see the star? The star would be the Gestalt, or the whole of the picture.

Image result for gestaltThis may answer the question why Dyslexics only make up about 10% of the population but make up 35% of American entrepreneurs? You can read this article that explains the Dyslexics’ competitive edge. Dyslexic entrepreneurs – why they have a competitive edge

It would be wonderful if you can get you hand on this out of print book, “But I’m Just A Little Bird” by Eileen S. Green. The little bird learns not to see her wings as burden that carries her down, but as a resource that can help her soar in the sky. This is Dyslexia.

Here is link to the Dyslexics Advantage Blog where you can find some wonderful literature for further study.

Dr. Manuel Casanova, a neuropathologist, discovered that the minicolumn organization in the brain seemed to exist on a continuum with autistics on one end, dyslexics on the other, and neurotypicals somewhere “in-between.” He was looking at one dimension of our very complex brains, noting that further research is necessary.

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The most magnificent thing is the prevalent pattern in Silicon Valley of the partnerships between Dyslexics type individual and Autistic type individuals. They compliment each other with highly specialized skills from both sides of the brain. 

My takeaway, we need appreciate and utilize All Kinds Of Minds to make this world a wonderful and productive place.

No one can say it as well at Temple Grandin. Listen to her talk about neurodiversity appreciation.

Part 3: A Biographical Study 

Try to read at least two biographies of an accomplished Dyslexic individual. Here are links to some of favorite biographies. You do not have to limit yourself to these choices. Try to choose an individual that you admire.

You can also find the Who Was Series on  Audiobooks.com. 

Audiobooks can be a wonderful tool for learners that are not ready to decode the words in the book but are ready to comprehend the story. I would suggest that the learner follows along on a hard copy and use the Read Aloud as a model for proper reading and a way of learning new words. Perhaps afterwords, a reader can try to read the book independently.

You can also watch some talks by Dyslexic Individuals. Here are a couple of links:

After reading at least two biographies or studying the life of two Dyslexic individuals, what patterns do you find? Based on your character study,

  1. How would you describe their early school years?
  2. How were the they able to use their assets to overcome their deficits?
  3. Do you agree with their life choices? Why or why not?
  4. If you would be in their shoes, would you have made any different choices? Which?
  5. What helped these individuals become so successful?
  6. Were these individuals successful everyday?
  7. Are you able to make any text-to-self connections?
  8. Did you learn any life lessons?

My Takeaway: 

I read a couple of the above biographies and noticed a pattern: life is like a rollercoaster. It is easier to see in hindsight. We will all have our ups and downs. We can cry, we can grieve, but we can also pick ourselves up and keep on fighting to make our visions a reality. If is a painting, a community service, a music album, a medical breakthrough, a story, a new building or becoming literate: we can do it!

PART 4: Identifying our Assets and Putting Them to Use

There are so many models we can use for  identifying our personal assets and deficits.

One of my favorite models is the Eight Neurological Constructs by Mel Levine’s –

All Kinds of Minds.

Going deeper into the eight constructs is not in the scope of this post. Perhaps at a later time we can discuss how we can use this model. See what you can grasp by just looking at this visual summary.

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For now, we will use Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Gardner talks of eight ways of being smart. All of us have all eight intelligences, just we have them at different degrees.

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Howard Gardner has not developed a multiple intelligences test or assessment himself. But any other people have developed many sorts of assessments and surveys. Here is a fun and simple Emoji Multiple Intelligence Survey you can use with young learners.

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Multiple Intelligence Emoji Survey

 

Branton Shearer has developed the best known instrument which has been administered to thousands of people all over the world. Here is a link to the MIDAS online packet to verify your profile.

Here is another great Multiple Intelligence Resource for older learners.

 

This book is a wonderful guide for older learners on the Multiple Intelligences and how they are relevant with a growth mindset. It includes quick quizzes that can help you learn now how smart you are, but how you are smart.
This book will help you,
• Learn about the nine different intelligences and what they mean
• Find out which ones you have (Hint: You already have all nine, just in different degrees)
• Make the most of your strongest intelligences
• Strengthen your other intelligences
• Use all nine intelligences at school, at home, and everywhere you go
• Discover more about who you are and who you can be
• Understand and get along better with the people around you
• Look to the future and how you’ll use your smarts when you get older

What does it take to be truly successful in the long run? If you think the answer is “be smart” and “work hard” you need to see and hear this talk.

We shall conclude by watching Howard Gardner’s TEDx Talk, Beyond Wit and Grit, Rethinking the Keys to Success. 

In short Multiple Wits and Good Grits.

 

Thank you reading! Thank you for watching! Thank you for thinking! Thank you for caring! Thank you for doing!

I hope you benefited from the lessons on character analysis.

I hope you came to a better understand of the Dyslexia experience and advantages.

I hope you feel inspired and empowered to realize and pursue your dreams and to help others do the same. Know that you have what it takes or you can just grow yourself.

I hope to journey with you again soon.

For questions, comments or feedback, please write to me at Nechamy@scenicrouteliteracy.com

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