Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mimetic Documents

Question: How can I help students understand the “mimetic documents” that accompany many types of text?

Answer/Quote: “Pictures help us identify objects and their physical characteristics…; diagrams help us identify the functions and interrelations of an object’s parts….’ And process schematics help us understand the changes that objects undergo during steps in a process….” P. 486.

Quote: “In all three cases, mimetic documents have helped understand the world as depicted in, for example, some dictionary, encyclopedia, or textbook, but each type of document has limitations. Pictures and diagrams display objects only in stationary states. Process schematics show changes but provide little insight as to how we might manipulate the processes.”  P. 486.

Comment: In all the years that I have taught using information from textbooks, I have ignored the “mimetic documents,” the pictures, diagrams, and process schematics that are meant to help students visualize the accompanying information. Perhaps my teachers also ignored them. On the other hand, I have great difficulty in visualizing directions, for example, how to put a gas grill together. I wonder if my “learning disability” of not visualizing directions is partly the result of my failure to pay attention to “mimetic  documents,” the often overlooked accompaniment to reading. RayS.

Title: “Understanding Documents: More Mimetic Documents: Procedural Schematics.” PB Mosenthal and IS Kirsch. Journal of Reading (March 1991), pp. 486-490.

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