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Reading to Learn

See in Your Mind’s Eyes!

Reading to Learn through Visualization

Sarah Nelson

Rationale: When students begin to read fluently they transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." In order for students to be most successful at extracting messages from a text they need to be taught comprehension strategies explicitly. According to research, one of the most effective reading comprehension strategies is visualization. Visualization is the ability to imagine, picture, or visualize what you are reading in a text. Visualization helps students monitor their reading and enables them to better comprehend and retain the text they are reading. Normally it is easier to remember images or pictures opposed to just plain words. In this lesson, students will be explicitly taught visualization through my modeling of this strategy, guided independent practice of this strategy, and partner practice. This lesson will help students learn to visualize what they are reading in their mind. We will do this by practicing visualization with a variety of different readings and using pictures to explain the events of the story. They will also be given opportunities to practice visualization by reading a passage of a book and visualizing the text within their imagination.


  • Esperanza Rising (copies for each student and teacher)
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • blank sheet of paper for each student
  • copies "Visualizing Assessment Checklist"


1)       “Today we are going to learn how to visualize something while we read. What do you think it means to visualize?” Allow response time. “That’s right visualizing something means to see it in your mind even though it’s really not there. I’m sure everyone has visualized something before. Let’s try it out. I want everyone to close their eyes while I read this”: I came home from school today and my mom was baking cookies. I could smell them baking in the oven. I could see the chocolate chips melting. I sat down on my soft warm bed and ate them while my mom read to me.  

2)       Say: "Sometimes when you are reading it can be hard to understand or remember what is happening in the text. Our imagination is a great tool that we can tap into in order to help us better comprehend what we read. We can use our imagination to paint a picture of any story or information in our mind. It is easier to follow a story, monitor your reading, and understand what you read when you visualize. Today in our lesson we are going to practice visualization. First I am going to show you how I use visualization, and then I am going to give you the opportunity to practice visualization for yourself!

3)       But before we start our visualization I noticed that there were some very tricky words in the section we read of Esperanza Rising.

·         Our first word is waif. In the sentence of the book we read in the book it said: “and those clothes Ramona! They are fitting for a woman of your stature, and Esperanza looks like a waif. (54)” The word waif means a person, especially a child, who has no friends, similar to a stray animal with no owner. If someone is a waif does that mean they are very popular? 

When Tom's mom accidentally lost him at the mall the security guard thought he appeared like a ______.   

·         Our second word is renegade. In the book the sentence was: “they were renegades who thought they had permission to steal from the rich and give to the poor. (62)” it means a person who leaves a party or cause for another one, a traitor. If you are a renegade are you considered to be loyal? 

The man became a ________ after he unexpectedly left the army. 

·         The last vocab word is alms. In the book it said: “An old, frail beggar woman pushed by them into the back of the car, clutching a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her hand outstretched for alms. (66)” Alms means anything given in charity: money, food, donations, etc. If you are giving alms does that mean you take something from a charity? 

When Clara went to church she gave ______ during communion. 

4)       Say: "Now I am going to show you how I visualize when I am reading! I am going to read a great paragraph to you from the book Esperanza Rising! This is one of my very favorite books." [I will read pages 4, 5, and the first paragraph on page 6] While I read the students will close their eyes and I will have them draw a picture of what they are visualizing. I will then have them turn and talk to a partner to share their pictures and thoughts they had while they were visualizing. Then have a few volunteers to share with the class what they have imagined in their mind. I will ask some students to share with the class the following things: What are some things you are seeing? Did you have a ''movie-like" scene playing in your mind as we read? I will allow children to share their experience with visualization. Great job! You guys are getting good at it! It is awesome to use your imagination!”

5)       Say: "Now it is time for you to practice this strategy independently! The rest of this chapter has some great scenes of Esperanza's enjoyment of the farm and her dad, but something life-changing is going to happen at the end of this chapter. We need to read to find out what tragic event is about to change Esperanza's life forever.  I want you to practice your best fluent reading, and as you read I want you to try practicing visualization. I want you to imagine that you are Esperanza or that you are there with her. Jump into the story with your imagination and try to visualize these next few scenes. When you are finished with the rest of this chapter I want you to draw a picture of something that you visualized during your reading you can even write some words that really helped you visualize.

6)       Say: "After you have done this, you can share with your 'shoulder buddy' your picture, and the two of you can compare your images and descriptions. You might notice, that even though you both read the same passage, the pictures you have painted in your minds may be a little different. Use our "Visualizing Assessment Checklist' to assess each other's visualization practice. One of the great things about visualization is that everyone visualizes things differently! That is one of the beauties of reading; we all have slightly different experiences as we read and visualize. This makes reading exciting and personal!"

7)       Say: "Now that you know how to visualize, I want you all to continue practicing and exercising this strategy! This strategy is going to help you really understand what you are reading. When you visualize as you read you feel as though you are a part of what is happening in the book, and the images you create in your mind will be retained longer than plain words. Keep up the great practice! Visualization will become one of your best friends as you continue to grow as a life-long reader! 

Assessment: Each shoulder buddy will use this assessment checklist to grade each other on effective visualization in procedure #6. Each student will also independently answer the two reading comprehension questions in order for me to assess their reading comprehension.

1. Why did the Bandits attack papa? 

2. How did Esperanza feel about Miguel when he touched her hand? Why? 

Visualizing Assessment Checklist:

 ____________ Did your buddy draw a picture?

____________ Does the picture illustrate the events in this chapter?

____________ Does the picture activate your senses?

____________ Does your buddy include a written description of their visualization image?

____________ Does the description and picture demonstrate comprehension of the chapter?

The teacher will assess the students understanding of visualization both through the teacher’s observation and through the assessment checklist and drawings.


·         Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.

            ·         See in Your Mind’s Eyes! By Anna Kochenour. https://sites.google.com/site/mskochenoursclass/ctrd-3710-2

            ·         Snap a Picture. By Nicole Lawyer. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/awakenings/lawyernrl.htm