“If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.”
“It is impossible even to think without a mental picture.”
What is Visualization?
Visualization refers to our ability to make visual representations in our minds while reading. Some people think of it as making videos or movies in our heads. Visualization helps readers engage in text in ways that make it memorable and personable. When students create pictures in their minds, they become more involved with the text. Visualization stimulates the imagination, enhances involvement with the text, and improves mental imagery. According to Puett Miller (2004), visualization is a proven strategy used to improve reading comprehension.
Students are taught visual, sequential steps for putting details together to get the main idea. By using prior knowledge and background experiences, readers connect the author’s writing with a personal picture. Through guided visualization, students learn how to create mental pictures as they read. They use sensory images like sounds, physical sensations, smells, touch, and emotions described in the story to help them picture the story.
How do you teach students to use visualization?
According to Puett Miller (2004), teachers should follow this step by step plan to teach visualization.
1. Teachers should directly model the thought processes involved in visualizing. They should read familiar text and describe the images they see in their mind.
2. Read a passage for students to visualize. Choose something that is descriptive so they can easily create vivid images in their mind. Explain to students that when they visualize, it is important to use their background knowledge and words in the text to help them imagine a picture in their mind. It is important students understand that there is not one correct answer. For younger students start with an object and describe it by color, size, shape and smell. Ask students to close their eyes and create an image.
3. Students should share their images with a partner. They can use the “Think, Pair, Share.” technique. After forming an image, they should pair up with a partner, and share what they have visualized. Allow students to choose their own subjects to describe to each other.
4. Teachers should use a different selection from the same text and ask students to illustrate while they listen to the teacher read a passage. Students should share and discuss their images.
5. Students should practice the strategy frequently. They should use visualization during read-alouds and silent reading. Teachers should incorporate both drawings and mental imagery to meet the needs of all students.
Watch a first grade class in action using this strategy.
Visualization is a proven technique to improve comprehension. Sadoski (1998) explains, “The mental imagery that we experience while reading, either spontaneously or induced by instruction, is now known to have powerful effects on comprehension, memory, and appreciation for text.”
This website provides an interactive teaching guide to help teachers understand the strategy and incorporate it into their lessons.
Connection to Multiple Intelligences and Universal Design for Learning
Visualization connects to the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines by providing multiple means of representation, action and expression and engagement. Students with strengths in the visual/linguistic intelligence should be encouraged to use this strategy. Those who do not have strong concept imagery can learn to develop this intelligence by following the steps outlined above.
I believe visualization is a powerful technique that makes reading more engaging and interesting. I have used visualization in my own class and have observed a noticeable difference in student’s comprehension. They really enjoy the visualization activities and love to share their interpretations of the text. It’s amazing how much detail they begin to notice. It is reflected in their writing as well. I’ve observed students gaining more confidence and showing more interest in their reading and writing. This strategy can be used across the curriculum in all content areas. The best part is that students get into the habit of using this technique and actively think about what they read, which of course leads to greater comprehension.
Into the Book Strategies for Learning. Visualizing. Retrieved from: http://reading.ecb.org/teacher/visualizing/visual_studentvideo.html
Puett Miller, C. (2004). Opening the Door: Teaching Students to Use Visualization to Improve Comprehension. Education World. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/profdev/profdev094.shtml
Sadoske M. (1998).Reading Online. http://www.readingonline.org/research/Sadoski.html
Teacher Vision. Visualizing. Retrieved from http://www.teachervision.fen.com/reading-comprehension/skill-builder/48791.html