Being ‘in the zone’ is a common phrase used to describe someone who is succeeding at something. It usually refers to a short term success that is dominated by either a mind set or frame of mind.
A footballer might reflect on being in the zone during a match where everything they do is a success, or a writer might find themselves in the writing zone for a period of time where they breeze through thousands of words.
This zone is also commonly described as ‘flow’ where all the right things are happening at the right time. It’s a belief that this flow is a happenstance or a lucky coincidence but this in fact a misconception.
Firstly science will tell us that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Coincidence is simply a construct of the human mind trying to gain some control in a random and chaotic universe. If the average person is awake for, on average, 8 hours of the day and they experience something, an event, feeling etc then the phrase: ‘there’s a one in a million chance of that happening’ actually equates to once a month. Quite likely then…
So if the occurances of flow aren’t by chance then this must mean it is something deeper, something a little more profound maybe?
It all comes down , I believe, to hard work, mindset and preparation. The footballer who gets in the zone does so because of all those hours of training behind him. He sets himself in the right frame of mind and then relies on his knowledge and experience to pull him through. It’s the same with the writer and anyone else that has ever experienced that flow in whatever they are doing.
The question really becomes how can I make that flow a common occurance? How can I repeatedly be in that state? And perhaps more specifically for me in regard to reading is how can I get my students into that flow in their own reading as often as possible?
I’ve already written numerous posts about the process of reading and how I see it evolving and being nurtured. My hierarchy of reading is a good example of this and its implementation will be a feature of future posts but as well as all this big stuff I there is also a need to think about the smaller parts that also play an important part but that can easily get lost.
For instance one of the most imoortant, yet often overlooked area in reading development is the actual book. For me, the importance of the right book is one of the keys to producing and sustaining that reading flow.
In the graphic I’ve put together at the top of this post you can see where and how I feel reading flow can be achieved.
As human beings we like a challenge but we must perceive this challenge to be achievable, if not then we are likely to either dismiss it, feel a whole load of insecurities around it or potentially switch off.
For those in education this is also an important point to think about regarding how you teach people. The fact of the matter is we need to be challenged, stretched, pushed to achieve our best and to learn but we also need to feel capable of being able to be stretched.
This is just as important in reading improvement as it is in the classroom. Weaker readers need to come across new, difficult words if they are to improve. There is no point in them reading a book where they know every word. No progress will be seen.
So the balancing act is how to introduce enough challenge whilst also keeping the individual confident that they can overcome it?
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog and those that know me that I feel strongly that it is attitude and enjoyment. We talk a lot in school about attitudes to learning and the impact this has on a student but what we also talk about in our school are attitudes to reading and the impact this has on a reader.
To create that reading flow we need to make sure that the balance is set right between challenge (too much and it’s too difficult) and enjoyment (not enough and it’s boring).
Success happens when you are able to intersect the two and create that flow for the reader.
This is why reading for pleasure is so important in schools and homes. We need to encourage an enjoyment around reading, we need to make sure that young people want to read, that we find them the right book, not the book at the right level but the book that is right for them. If this happens then creating that reading flow and therefore reading progress will come naturally and often.