ABC and 123: Teach Mama: Visualizing During Read-Alouds

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teach Mama: Visualizing During Read-Alouds

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Many of us have taken a moment now and again to encourage our children to find pictures in the sky on a cloudy day, right? No matter if it's a turtle, a shoe, a bunny, or a Cheerio, it always amuses me to hear what types of things my kids see the clouds.

With very little effort, even in the time during a read-aloud, we can have our little ones continue to stretch their imaginations by practicing visualizing. This time the pictures aren't in the clouds; with visualizing, the pictures are in their heads.
  • Visualizing: Visualizing, as a reading comprehension strategy, is simply using the words on the page to create images in your mind. Some teachers refer to visualizing "mind movies" to make the concept easier for younger learners.
Many children's books are jam-packed full of illustrations, photographs, and drawings, our little ones don't even need to use their brains to visualize what's happening. And it makes sense; the reason we want to spend time each day reading rich and varied literature with our children is so they create banks of images in their little brains. They can then pull from this 'schema' later to make connections to new reading and concepts. And the pictures they have stored will help them to better understand these ideas.

But it's quite all right every so often to stop for a second during a read-aloud and purposefully close the book, forcing listeners to create their own "mind movies" before you show them the next page, the next illustration.

For example, if you're in the middle of a book, and the character has been working up to something--a decorated Christmas tree, a surprise for a friend, or even that first step into a new classroom--consider pausing. Close the book and say, Hmmm. Take a minute, close your eyes, and use your brain to make a picture in your head of what the decorated tree/ picture for her friend/ new classroom might look like. What colors do you see? What kinds of things are in your picture?

Be forewarned: kids get antsy. They want to see what really comes next without figuring it out for themselves. But if you model for them, explain what you see in your "picture" or "mind movie", they may be more inclined to follow suit.

When teaching visualization to students, no matter the grade, I always pulled a rich passage from one of my own texts--for high schoolers, it'd be a vivid passage from Jurassic Park or Frankenstein, and for the younger kiddos, a stanza from a Maya Angelou poem or the The House on Mango Street would do the trick.

I'd say something like:
  • Close your eyes. Listen to this passage, and let your imagination go to work.
  • Hear the words and think about them, letting them be the brushes for the movie in your mind.
  • What do you imagine this (whatever it may be) to look like? What kinds of things are in your mind picture?
  • Take a picture as I read of what you see. Remember the colors, the textures, the sounds and smells.
  • Use the words on the page to make a visualization--or picture in your brain--what's happening.
And after you take a minute to share what you visualized, let the kiddos share what took place in their "mind movie". Finally, if you are able, turn the page and compare what you thought to what the author and/or illustrator created. The similarities--and differences--can spark a pretty worthwhile follow-up discussion about the author's word choices and the illustrator's artistic decisions.
So that's that. Just another quick, totally easy way of throwing in a meaningful reading comprehension strategy lesson that can--and should!--be introduced even before your child is the one decoding the words on the page. And for transition readers who will soon be moving into chapter books? This exercise is a must-do because it will get her into the habit of visualizing now!

Many thanks to Anne E. Gregory and Mary Ann Cahill for writing "Kindergartners Can Do It, Too! Comprehension Strategies for Early Readers" (The Reading Teacher, March 2010), an inspiring and informative article worth checking out!

Next up:
Activating Prior Knowledge During Read-Alouds

You can find more on this topic and others over at teach mama, where Amy shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her children's every day. . . or as often as she can with a 6, 4, and 3 year old. Or join her--and many other ABC & 123 friends--at we teach where they're chatting up a storm, sharing ideas, and learning a little themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post! (I found it through a post on NotJustCute.). I love reading aloud to my kids and this is a great reminder to slow down and let their imaginations get a little bit of a workout. Thank you!