Visual thinking is particularly strong in children, but conventional classrooms are strangely oblivious to consequences of visual thinking to the writing process. If you haven't seen it yet, check out our Writing for Visual Thinkers blog post as well as the links on that article.

Visual thinking poses a number of challenges to verbal expression - something that mistaken as poor effort, underachievement, or low intelligence.

#1. Visual thinkers may learn and process information nonverbally.

The immediate consequence of nonverbal thinking is the experiences are more difficult to organize or express in words. Sensory perceptions (strongly linked to emotions) are by their nature complex, disorganized (not sequenced), and ambiguous.

#2. Visual thinking is personal.

More than words, the sense impressions - visual or otherwise- are often intensely personal. As a result, when translated into words, meanings may be lost or distorted, or seemingly 'empty' from another person's point-of-view.

From Gerald Grow's The Writing Problems of Visual Thinkers:

"The words of visual thinkers often make more sense if you consider them not as the exposition of a verbal, logical idea, but as labels for unseen pictures. Such thinkers may use a few key words repeatedly, without elaboration, as if each word contained and powerfully expressed a complex thought in its entirety. The reader, though, sees only the words and does not have the writer's mental pictures that are necessary to convey the real meaning. The words are cryptic. The best visual writers are mysterious and evocative; the worst are simply incomprehensible."

#3. Writing Should be Taught with a Visual Thinking Context

Because visual thinking is a very different style of processing information, writing instruction should take this into account. Brainstorming activities of visual thinkers may be more productive if right hemispheric strategies of brainstorming and organization (mindmapping, doodling, free association, analogies) are undertaken. In fiction writing, often the most powerful writers are good at plumbing the strengths of both the right and left hemispheres. Left hemispheric processes will be necessary to narrow, prioritize, and fill-in logical gaps that the intuitive hemisphere may leave out.

© 2010

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