Debbie Miller refers to it as creating mental images. Elin Keene refers to it as using sensory images to enhance comprehension and in her newest work Lucy Calkins calls it envisioning. Regardless of what you call it, good readers create mental images as they read. For many readers, it’s more than just visual images. They also pay attention to the other senses by noting “smells, textures, sounds, mood and ambiance”. The images change as the words change. The pictures are fluid. Readers revise their images as they add new information, as they read new information, or as they discuss their images with others. Good readers are able to look at a movie of the actions in their mind or they are able to step into the book by stepping into the “skin” or “head” or “shoes” of a character. Good readers understand that visualizing the action of the story helps them understand and comprehend the words. Good readers use their mental images to draw conclusions, to make inferences, to fill in spaces. The images clarify their thinking. They combine the words from the text with their own schema to create their pictures. The images may come from the five senses and the emotions but they are anchored in the reader’s background knowledge. Good readers draw on those images to recall details after the text has been read.
Tracy has been doing lessons for several weeks trying to teach our children to visualize. We displayed two different activities on our bulletin board this month, one where the children visualized the scene from a passage in a book and another that showed how an image can change as a child talks about her image. Below are some pictures of our bulletin board and the thinking of the children and our thinking about the children's work.
It is important that children see action in their minds. If they don’t, they will never fall in love with reading because they won’t see the movie that other children enjoy. They miss the action and the details and wonder how other children can figure things out. As a Special Education teacher, I know that for many of my children, the reason that they struggle with comprehension and even with math word problems is because they can't visualize what is happening in their mind. The way that students "see" text is what Tracy and I are were trying to capture with this month's bulletin board.