English Class Nightmares
English class has always been a nightmare for me, I was hopeless at writing text, or at least coherent paragraphs. In grade school, it was spelling and grammar that I hated. Then middle school we were writing about books we read, and while that wasn’t quite as bad (because I could use sentences from books) it was the sequence and organization of what I wrote that challenged me. In high school, I soon had to formulate words to express my own feelings about what we were reading. Writing spilled over into other subjects and whenever I had to write an essay I felt sick. In college, we are supposed to be experts and remember all those things from English class to write intelligent thought-provoking papers for all classes.
For me writing was excruciating, it was also a barrier to my goal, graduating from college. I was at a small liberal arts college and I don’t’ know if we didn’t have tutors, or if I was just too humiliated to find out. But, because I was determined, I faced the humiliation of asking friends to help me correct my papers. Wow, what a blow to one’s self-esteem after you have rewritten a paper two, something three, times before you show it to someone and then have it come back to you a red marked up mess. I remember fearing what my classmates me thought of me, I had only a trusted few I would ask for help. Now that I am well into my 40’s, I am not quite so vulnerable, my skin has been thickened over the years. Now it is easier to tell my stories and explain what a nightmare writing can before some, just like reading late can be for others.
Dyslexia: not just a Reading Problem
For me, my dyslexia didn’t show up as much with my reading, I was able to get by, I was really good at asking others what they thought, for listening to others and discuss topics. Understanding what I read could be hidden. What I couldn’t hide was my struggle with writing coherent sentences. I still struggle at times when I feel rushed or do not have a clear picture of what I want to say. When I was young I would procrastinate on the writing portion of homework, but it was because I would not know how to begin. I don’t know how many times I was told by teachers and friends to just start writing and then go back and correct it and make it readable. So much easier said than done. I tried out this method, and since I didn’t have a better solution, I used it, but it was not an efficient method for me.
Writing down anything that came to me actually gave me too many words to deal with. The problem with just putting whatever down on paper is I can ramble and ramble. The sequence of thought and/or the organization of ideas can be all over the place, but beyond that was getting the right words. I have really struggled with getting the right words for what I want to say, I say it so many times and in so many different ways that I confuse myself and my thoughts become muddied OR I don’t’ say enough of the right things because it is too obvious to me and I assume the reader would see it as being obvious as well.
I remember in college struggling and telling a friend that the words are just in a jumbled up in the sky and I can’t seem to pull the ones I want to use down to explain something. I understand this better now, I wasn’t seeing the words jumbled up, I was seeing what I wanted to express as a picture. Ever heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” There can be so much to see in a picture, especially one that is evolving and complex. Without a good understanding of the meaning of prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs describing those pictures I felt stumped. I just told my teachers I was stymied, their suggestion was to just write everything I thought and then clean it up – stream of consciousness writing.
Now I understand what the issue was with this method — I am not a verbal conceptualizer, I am not thinking with the sound of words, and this method was trying to help me get the words out. The actual issue I was having was not knowing which word to use because I didn’t have the meaning of high-frequency sight words that make up 75% of the words we use.
Meaning Based Program
The Davis methods are meaning based programs, they use symbol mastery to give meaning to words that cause dyslexics trouble – exactly what I needed. I remember a moment during the program seeing what made up the trigger words list. I had an “ah ha” moment, I remembered being in German class in high school, getting a test back that was of German prepositions. I was looking at the test where you match a word with a picture. I had done poorly on it and I was confused as to why I got so many of them wrong because I knew the English equivalent. Back then I couldn’t figure it out, now it is clear as day to me, I didn’t have the right meanings of the English preposition to match with the picture on the test.
The Davis Dyslexia Correction Program has helped me move beyond my fears of words. I now understand the meaning of words at a much deeper level. I also have the ability to be focused enough to see my errors. I can clean up my writing to a place where I can be pretty sure it is understandable to others. Before I really thought I was broken when it came to expressing myself, now I see it for what it is.
Writing Text: My Method
My method to write text is a combination of methods. I use outlining, mind mapping, as well as stream of consciousness depending on what I am writing. Email start with bullet points. This writing I started with bullets as well, he is what I had down:
- English class nightmare- Writing hard
- Method not helpful
- Why – picture thinker
- Trigger words
- What Davis did
I put this on my page and then wrote a bit under each bullet. I tried a bit of stream of consciousness, but I am constantly coming back to my bullets to be sure that this is what I wanted to express. For this writing, I ended up deleting quite a bit because it wasn’t relevant. I then reread it very slowly making sure that each sentence is the picture I want to present. I then put it away until the next day, look at it with fresh eyes. I still like to have someone else look at it to find things I might have missed.
This method isn’t too different then what some teachers tell you to do, but what is different is me, the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding I have gained through mastering trigger words allows me to see it, reread it, and be present to words in a way that wasn’t possible for me before.