Reading to Learn: Vivid Visualization

Vivid Visualization
Reading to Learn Literacy Design

Rationale: For better comprehension when reading, children should be able to visualize what they are reading. There is consistent evidence that visualization, or constructing mental images, facilitates children’s learning of a text. In this lesson, children will learn how to visualize and practice constructing mental images from a reading.


        ·      One copy of the poem “Bear In There” by Shel Silverstein for each student

        ·      Two pieces of white paper per student

        ·      Crayons

        ·      A selection of various chapter books


      1.     Begin the lesson by asking students what visualization means. Allow students to brainstorm for a minute or so while you write their responses on the whiteboard. Say: “Visualization means to form a mental image of something you are told or something you read. Visualizing a story as we read it is a very important skill. When we draw pictures in our heads about the story we are reading, we are more likely to remember what we read and understand it better.”

      2.     Quickly review silent reading. Say: “Remember that when you read silently, you can read fast through the less important parts – but you want to make sure to slow down and read the important parts more carefully. This will help you remember details that are important for constructing a mental picture of what you have read.”

      3.     Model visualization. Say: “I am going to read a sentence and show you how I visualize.” Read the sentence: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Say: “This is the picture I would construct in my head [draw the image on the whiteboard as you verbally describe your visualization image]. I would picture a lazy, sleeping dog laying on the ground with a fast, red fox jumping over him. Each of you might have visualized it a little differently than I did, but that is okay. Visualization is about you making a picture in your head that helps you understand and remember what you are reading.”

      4.     Write this sentence on the board: The little boy built a sandcastle on the beach as the waves were crashing nearby. Have the students read the sentence silently to themselves, then, on one of their blank sheets of paper, they will draw the image that they created in their minds. Have the students show their work to the rest of the class and remind them that it is okay that they do not all look the same.

      5.     Explain to the students that it is important not to try and create mental images at the same time as they are reading. Tell them that they should read a short portion of the selected text and create an image from that, then proceed with the next portion, and so on.

    6.     Pass out a copy of Shel Silverstein’s poem “Bear In There” to each of the students. Say: “This is a silly poem about a bear that lives in someone's refrigerator! He eats all their food and scares the family. Let's read to find out about what he's doing in their refrigerator." 

    7.   Before we read, point out the word "frigidaire" in the second line. Say: "Look at the word 'frigidaire' in the second line of this poem. Does anyone know what this word means? [Attend to student responses]. That's right, this word means refrigerator. I'm going to use this word in a sentence: I keep my milk in my frigidaire." Ask a student a question using the word: "[Student], what kinds of foods do you keep in your frigidaire?" Finally, have each student write one sentence using the word frigidaire.

    8.   Say: "Now we are ready to read the poem. I want each of you to read this poem, then draw the mental image that you visualize in your head while you read.”

    9.     Have the students read whatever chapter book they are currently reading, or have them select one if they are not currently reading one. For assessment, I will pull students to my desk one at a time and have them read a portion from the book. Students will answer the following comprehension questions: What was the main idea of this story? Who was/were the main character(s)? Where did this story take place? What did you imagine the main characters and the setting to look like? Finally, students will draw a sketch of the image they visualized about the story. The questions and sketch will serve as the assessment of their ability to visualize and create a mental image.


“Imagine, Comprehend, Remember”, by Marcy Catherine Smith.

Silverstein, Shel. A Light in the Attic. "Bear In There". Harper & Row, NY, 1981.

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