Thursday, September 24, 2020

How to Reinforce Comprehension Through Visualization


Visualization is the ability to create a picture in ones head through the words we read or hear. Good readers use this skill in order to comprehend what they read and hear. I am going to share one of my favorite books I use to teach visualization. This beautifully written book by Vera B. Williams can be used for many comprehension skills but today I will focus on visualization.


I always introduce visualization by asking my students if they like to go the movies or watch movies. The answer is always a very excited, yes. Hands dart up immediately because they are ready to tell you about their favorite movie or a movie they watched recently or a time they went to the movies. They are excited at the very mention of movie because then of course there's always someone who raises their hand to ask if the class can watch a movie together. Am I right?! Ah, the life of an elementary school teacher. So the excitement is built and I burst all of their bubbles by saying that I prefer to READ because when I read, the movie plays in my head! I like to give examples of this by telling a story about something near and dear to me. Every year I do this, my story changes and I literally just go with a story that's fresh in my memory. I use rich descriptive words and accentuate every little detail. I also like to make my story a little suspenseful to keep them on the edge of their seats of course. One of my favorites starts like this...Last night heard a thump. It was not a very loud thump but it was loud enough to wake me up and interrupt my dream. It was a thump that made my heart start to beat faster than normal. My eyes were wide awake and my body froze. I wanted to pull my soft, cozy blanket right up over my head. My story, (cough-throat clear) or should I say acting continues until I know they are hooked by my story. Next I ask questions such as: What did I do after I heard the noise?  How do you think I felt? What details did you hear that made you think that? We go on and I bring home my point of how a good story makes your have these amazing details in your head just like a movie does, but the most amazing thing is that it's not a movie at all-it's in your head. Here is an important detail that I always do when telling my Oscar-worthy story. I am very careful to leave off at a part that makes them want to hear more. This is so, so, very important! They will always ask, "And then what happened." I always respond with, "Oh, do you want to hear more. Isn't this just like going to the movies?" The most awesome thing is, that every time you open a book, it's like going to the movies. In fact, it's even better because you have the best imagination that can make to story even better than a movie can. 

Using Visualization to Build Comprehension

I constantly use this phrase to bring home comprehension skills. I always say, "Good readers always ___." Students want to be good readers. Some have a negative experience with reading and of course you will have those who claim not not like to read at all. If you can hook a student with enjoying stories, even if it's just listening to a story, you are beginning to connect the enjoyment of hearing a story to reading one themselves. They just need to know how. They need the skills. Those struggling readers want to know the secret to becoming a better reader, because it's always those students who want to learn to read so desperately. So when you tell students, good readers do this very thing. They are going to listen. They want to be a good reader. Tell you students, good readers visualize what they read in their heads, just like a movie. When students are able to visualize what they read, they are able to remember what they read and are able to ask and answer questions along the way. You see, it's all connected! This goes back to my very suspenseful docudrama story I tell my students to hook them. Students will be able to answer questions and I guarantee they will come up with questions on their own. This is the connection and how visualization builds comprehension. It is key. It is vital!

Reading Without Showing the Pictures

I like to read A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams to teach visualization. On the first read, I read it aloud without showing the pictures. I even keep the cover hidden so I can get their true visualizations of the text without the influence of the illustrations. I explain that we are going to visualize what the author is saying and we are going to picture what is happening inside our heads. If you know this story, you know how beautifully written it is. I like to take advantage of this and use this book to teach visualization. 

After Reading Resources

These activities can be done during or after the story. 

Text Visualization

This is one of the reasons I don't show the pictures on the first read. I like to do this activity to teach visualization. Remember to keep the cover hidden as well to keep the illustrations from influencing their own thoughts. I like to take a little descriptive piece of text and have students illustrate it. I like to see how my students preferences show up in their own chair because of course something wonderful and beautiful can look different to everyone. My favorite part is comparing everyone's chair at the end and then of course finally revealing what the chair looks like in the story. You see, it's all about that hook, building excitement and creating a buzz that gets students excited about reading. 

Create Your Own Chair

This one is so fun for students because they get to be so creative with this one. I like to tell them to imagine they had that jar full of coins from working hard and they get to spend it on the most comfy chair they can imagine. A good tip for your writers is to design their chair first, then come in with the description. These are always fun to see!

Partner Visualization Activity

I like to let my students have fun with this one. Students partner up, then switch. Each partner will get a sheet and write a description. When each partner is finished with their description, they exchange papers, read their partners description...visualize it in their head, then color in the chair to match the written description. They get to show what's inside their head!

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I hope you can use some of these resources in your classroom. Remember the key to fostering a love of reading is showing students your love of reading. This comes from building a true enjoyment of reading and it begins with a hook. How will you hook your readers today?

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  1. I have always loved this book. My house caught on fire when I was a child, so I have a strong text to self connection.

  2. Oh wow! Yes, what a scary experience for a child! This one is one of my favorite books too!

  3. I love using A Chair for My Mother for Visualizing. I used this book about a week and a half ago. I read it first without showing the pictures or the cover and then reread it. We compared the images we saw in our heads with the illustrations in the book. I recounted stories from my childhood of riding the City Bus downtown with my Grandmother. She lived in the city and didn't drive. Great memories!