From the desk of Leigh Ann . . .
“If the motorcycle was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed . . .”
Can’t you just see him? Rubeus Hagrid is the half-giant/half-human Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. J.K. Rowling has such a gift for painting vivid pictures in the minds of her readers as she describes her characters. Visualization is an important tool for building meaning.
When readers can picture what they have read, they can better understand it. Don’t take this skill for granted. Even the most imaginative students may need direction in developing this skill. The modeling and teaching of active visualization is a must for helping readers build deeper understanding. Here are a few ways to practice the strategy of visualization:
- Make students aware that visualizing can help them connect with a text and better understand what they are reading.
- Read a passage with rich descriptive language aloud. Then have the children illustrate what the reading brings to mind. Discuss the illustrations and how the pictures were built upon the literary language they heard.
- Encourage students to connect their life experiences to what they read. Making real life connections helps students build meaning and better relate to what they are reading.
- Read aloud with great inflection and encourage students to create a movie in their minds of what is happening. Make students aware that this challenge will require skillful listening.
- Discuss movie and book connections. Have you ever watched a movie after reading a book? Did the movie portray the characters as you envisioned them?
Research has shown that when we create mental images from the words on a page, we are connecting verbal and visual systems. Dual Coding is a theory of cognition proposed by Allan Paivio that shows that forming mental images helps us learn. Visualization is one strategy that can help students develop deeper understanding and become more effective readers.
Here is a visualization tool to add to your comprehension toolbox.
Create a Character Bank: As students are reading, encourage them to paint pictures in their minds of each character that is introduced. Next, students can bring the character to life by drawing a picture of who they visualized. After illustrating, list three words that describe the character. Create a bank of all the characters from a text to help students relate to each and build a deeper understanding of who the character is and the part played as the story unfolds. Click here for the template.