Visualization is the comprehension strategy that enables readers to paint a
virtual picture in their minds of the events, characters, settings and
information in the text they are reading. Students can visualize the text,
story, and concepts to help them understand what they have read. This concept
will especially help younger learners who can communicate verbally but may not
have acquired enough reading and phonic skills just yet. However, the ability
to imagine and visualize characters and settings as well as information from
text helps to deepen comprehension with all readers. it develops a personal
connection with the text that will be different for each reader.
We have over 10 different activities to teach Visualizing to children and students, the key is to encourage the use of imagination and being able to express that verbally or on paper. so to help we have included artistic response, using drama, picture walks, imagining, arts and craft resources and many more.
If your child is artistic, and studies have shown we educate this out of
them! so the younger to start this the better. Letting them draw the story be
it as a one picture summarization or as a comic board (we have these templates for download if you need). By changing their role from passive recipient of the
information to an active participant in the story or text they can take a more
personal and empathetic view of the subject. If they become the illustrator,
they can consider the characteristics of the setting, plot, and characters that
are important to the story. Drawing can also help students use their imagination
to fill in things the gaps in their knowledge. It allows them to practice other
comprehension skills like inferencing and determining importance as they draw
both what they think and what they find important from the text.
Although visualizing is described as creating a mental image as you read,
putting those images into a come concrete form, especially for younger
learners, can help their comprehension and reading development hugely. Have
your child create a puppet show or put on a play with their stuffed animals or
neighborhood friends. Not only will they have to consider what the setting
looks like, but they will also have to consider the characters’ actions. This encourages practical application of other reading comprehension skills as well as visualizing, summarizing, inferencing and determining importance to name but here. Of course it’s a massive amount of cross curricular fun as well!!
Ever wondered why people so often say “ohhh the book was better than the movie?” When we read we make mental images of all the aspects of the text. When someone else takes their idea and make a movie it may, or more likely, may not fit the picture the reader has for the characters or setting etc. A kinda weird example from me, I used to love the Asterix and Obelix Comic books from years ago. Now for these the images are totally all there for a movie maker to create a cartoon and they did. The thing that didn’t work for me, the voice, I had a totally different voice for the character in my head than the one they used, and it completely turned me off.
For younger students, have them tell you what they think the people, places,
and objects in the story look like. If they can cut out pictures, draw, or
describe the scene, record it for them. Then, locate a picture book or
illustrated version of the same story. Have your child tell you how their
expectations were met and how they were not. Ask them if they think it was a
better version of the characters or if they preferred their own. Most of us
think our imagined versions are better!
For older students, you might choose to read a book as a family and then
watch the movie adaptation. Before watching the adaptation, have your child
draw or explain their mental visualization and then compare the two and see if
you can get them to think about why their thoughts were different.
Graphic Organizers make another appearance on our list. They are visuals
that can help your child organize their thoughts and mental images. Some
graphic organizers encourage the use of pictures, and others are just visually
appealing to students. Not all students can draw, but coloring, doodling, and
color-coding can help as well. These work especially well with younger learners
While you may think that visualization is only what the student sees with
descriptions and information in the story, you can also use a picture walk
to combine visualizations and story concepts. The author or illustrator has
already visualized the story, and your child can use that visualization to
understand new concepts. An excellent book for this is The Gruffalo.
In this story, a little mouse uses his cunning to avoid being eaten by the
forest animals. Is has descriptive language that can be introduced before
reading to encourage children to draw what they think before going through the
actual (beautiful) images. The advantage with this reader, and readers like it
is the sheer amount of materials available to use it in teaching! We will drop
some links below.
When reading a story, we can often visualize scenes and settings, and the
people often look like loved ones or actors in our minds. Have your child write
down who they think should play each part in the movie version. Where should it
be filmed? What kind of car does the main character drive? If the book is a
picture book, you could still talk about who, what, and where each of them
resembles. You can expand the activity to ask what where the characters like as
a child, or what will they be like when they are older, will they have changed,
why will they have changed. The ideas around all of these strategies is to get
them learning how to reason and apply both comprehension strategies and higher
Have your child create a film poster for the movie version. Allow them to
use magazines or printed photos if they are not good at drawing. What would go
on the poster? How would you organize it, and why? Film posters often tell the
story or the plot points in one visual. It also ties in and allows them to practice
determining importance strategies as well.
One of the concepts that writers and authors often try to use is showing
rather than telling the reader what is happening in the story. However, many
authors will sometimes tell rather than show. Choose a few times the author
told instead of showed and have your child try to show it through words. Rather
than saying, “She was hungry,” your child should try to make the reader
understand the character is hungry without using those words.
“Her stomach growled. Jennie had not eaten since last night. She looked at
the clock. 4:30. She had missed breakfast and lunch. Her legs were shaking as
she made her way to the kitchen.” None of this says Jennie was hungry, but it
helps the reader paint that picture. This task is especially helpful for
children who are poets, writers, or creative. These strategies also cover inferencing
skills as well.
Some children like to create, but they are not spectacular artists. Let them
create picture books, sculptures, or other crafts that will help with
visualization. Creating a flipbook, sticker book, or diary for your characters
can be fantastic activities. If you chose popular reading material, or popular
topics then it can be easier to find ready prepared tasks, join the dots,
coloring pages, descriptive texts and craft tasks etc. Check out the hungry
caterpillar resources below for an idea of the massive amount of
materials out there.
Cut pictures out that represent scenes in the story. Ask your child to put
the pictures together in order to create a picture book. You can also have them
create puzzles from the book cover. Make a color copy of the book cover and cut
it into puzzle pieces. Ask your child to put the puzzle together. If you want
the puzzle to be sturdier, you can use cardstock and lamination to make it
thicker. This is great for summarizing stories as well. They can then take
those pictures and write their own version as well.
A visual representation of words is the Frayer Model for defining terms. In
this model, students will put the term in the center of the card or block. The
block is divided into quadrants. The top left is the definition. What does the
term mean? Usually, this is the dictionary definition that applies to the
current usage. Some terms have several definitions, but only one or two apply
to the current usage. The upper right quadrant lists the characteristics. Children
will describe the characteristics. Pictures and visual representations might
also be used here.
The lower left quadrant is for examples. These are things that symbolize the
term or are types. Synonyms are often used in this quadrant. The final
quadrant is the non-examples one. These are the antonyms or words that are
opposites of the term. Often, these are also things people mistake for the
term. We will put a template for you to use here as well.
There are many things that you can do to help your child become better at
reading comprehension. Children can improve their comprehension skills by
tackling several of these things at one time. Reading comprehension will help
children become more successful adults as well as students. You do not need to
feel that every suggestion needs to work perfectly or even be tried. You can
try the ones that you want and skip the ones you do not. The important thing is
that you do what is best for your child’s learning.
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!