Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The Bilingual Doodler

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My daughter told me 4 interconnected stories today. I will tell them in the order she said them, and ask you to reflect on this.

First, she told me her Arabic teacher today told her to “stop doodling” because it was distracting her from class. I know my kid likes to doodle while doing her homework, so it seems to me she is one of those people for whom doodling helps keep her hands busy while she’s working, or to give herself a break. She told me, so I stopped doodling, but it didn’t help me concentrate any better. This does not surprise me, but is a good lesson for teachers to recognize differences amongst students. There is no “one right way” to focus in class, no “one right way” to learn, etc.

Second story, she said they learned about Multiple Intelligences in class and she came out to have several strengths, including being a visual learner. Sit with that one for a minute. It’s incredibly serendipitous that she learned about that TODAY of all days, the same day her Arabic teacher told her to “stop doodling so she could learn”. I always knew my kid was a musical learner, and she’s quite into interpersonal and likes maths and likes reading… I know she doodles and likes to draw but had not thought of her as a particularly visual learner (maybe because at her age I think I used to draw better haha, but I’m not actually as much of a visual learner now, so… go figure).

Third story, she showed me this doodle of hers. But it is the fourth story that is really striking for me.

Doodle by H. Fouad, my daughter, in one of her school workbooks

Fourth story. I asked my daughter how to read the doodle, because it was actually like a cartoon of a stick figure woman with long hair and in several different places so it looked like a cartoon/story not just a single situation doodle. So I asked her if the story “reads” from left to right (English) or right to left (Arabic). And her answer amazed me. She said, “if you read it from right to left, the story is…” (and she narrated a story) and then she said “but you can read it also from left to right….” (and she narrated a different perspective on the story). I was… AMAZED by this concept. Such a creative way to use her bilingualism for artistic expression.

And I immediately voice noted a cartoonist friend of mine and asked him if such a thing existed… he thinks not but he will research. But the three of us (my kid, my friend and I) plan to start a small project where we create such a cartoon that can be read from both sides to tell different stories. I am extremely excited by this! The possibilities…. and of using it in class for teaching and in my upcoming keynotes… it will be AWESOME, I think!! What do you think?

From some discussions on Twitter, I came across this beautiful poem that can be read in two directions, to give different meanings. I loved it so keeping it here and wondering whether students may be interested in creating one. Individually or as a group:

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