September 9, 2013

Teaching Students to Visualize While Reading

Hi guys!  Hoping to get back into some regular posting this week--last week things got away from me!  Teachers, you know how it is.  Teachers who are also marathon training--you really understand!!  (Seriously, all of you who are both those things AND moms on top of it, I don't know how you do it!)  Anyways, to start the week off on the right foot, I thought I'd share a lesson I did during our second week of school.  I absolutely LOVED it!  

Since we weren't beginning our regular literacy series (Treasures) until the second full week, I decided to spend our literacy time during that first full week teaching reading strategies (and of course building stamina in the Daily 3!).  One lesson I taught was on visualization, one of the most important strategies IMHO.  We all know that if kids aren't visualizing, they just plain aren't comprehending!  I think talking about visualizing with kids is a great way to help them monitor whether or not they are comprehending.  I borrowed this particular lesson from Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor, an uhMAZING book that links reading strategies to concrete objects and activities.  
Check it out on Goodreads here!

I started off seating the kids in a big circle on the carpet.  Each student brought their literacy notebook and a few markers.  The kids divided their notebook page into 6 sections, numbering each one.  I then started passing around paper bags, inside each of which was a "mystery object."  Students were instructed to reach into each bag without looking, feel the object inside, and create a "mental object" of the object.  Then, they passed the bag on and drew their visualization.  The kids had an absolute blast doing this!
6 mystery bags!
Student drawings

After the bags had made it all the way around the circle, I revealed the objects.  We talked about their mental images and compared them to the actual objects.  
This led us into an awesome discussion about Schema and its role in visualization.  Students were more easily able to visualize the stone when they felt it because they were more familiar with stones than some of the other objects.  Also, most shared that they pictured a yellow tennis ball when they felt that object because they had seen yellow tennis balls before.  Blue tennis balls weren't part of their schema!

Next, I shared this anchor chart with the kids that I created based on the sample in Comprehension Connections.  We talked about the language and practiced using the sentence frames.
I then took a quick brain break before regrouping the kids back at the carpet--this lesson was too long for continuous concentration from their little brains!!  I had the kids sit facing our interactive board, again with their notebooks and markers/pencils.  I have a few different powerpoints prepared of children's books with the text only typed into slides--no pictures.  These work wonderfully for visualization!  Also, they're perfect for reading shared text, as the words are so big on the screen.  The book we read was The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting.  As we read, I stopped for the kids to take "picture pauses," aka sketch their "mental images."  I also used the sentence frames to model my thinking about my visualizations and encouraged the kids to practice sharing their thinking through Turn and Talks.  This book worked great because there were some scenes where the narrator describes preparing for a party--a perfect way to tie in the fact that our schema about parties we've experienced and seen influences the way we will visualize a party!
One student's collection of "picture pauses" for The Wednesday Surprise

I revisit visualization all the time, but one spot in my day that I make sure to touch on it is during read aloud.  Since their eyes are not on a text, I encourage my students to close their eyes and really create that "movie in your mind" that is visualization.  We'll even share what color clothes we visualized the characters in.  Sometimes when we have a few extra minutes, I'll send the kids back to their seats to "capture what they visualized in their notebooks" using pictures and descriptive sentences.  The best part is that the kids LOVE it.  

Hope you will try this lesson in your classroom!  

What are some of your favorite literacy lessons to teach early on in the year?


  1. Love this lesson! I keep meaning to get that book!

  2. I definitely want to try this! Thanks!

  3. This is always! Thank you.


  4. Forgot the second part - answering your question. I love the inference lesson (I believe it is Tanny McGregor's from this same book) where I tell the story about the secretive new neighbors whose garbage I went through late one night to try to find out about 5th graders believe me! It is a fun and very effective lesson.


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