Who Needs Illustrations?

Rationale:  By the time children reach the fourth grade, they should be able to read automatically and effortlessly.  As students read, they should form pictures in their minds to help them understand the story line.  Consistent research shows that construction of representational images improves children’s learning of the text.  This strategy is called visualization.  Today the children will learn how to visualize the stories they read.

Materials:  21 copies of Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, Handouts of the poem Water Noises by Elizabeth Roberts (pg. 76), white paper, crayons and markers.

1. “Everyone close your eyes and open your ears as I read this sentence.  Her flowing, golden hair danced in the wind as she picked the flower from the healthy earth.  Now you can open your eyes and tell me what happened in your mind as I read the sentence.  That’s right, pictures formed in your imaginations as I said the words.  This is called visualization.  Today we will talk about visualization and why it is important.”
2.  “Since we are all in the fourth grade now, our reading has changed!  We have become a lot better at it and it has become a lot more fun!  The only downside to our fourth grade readers is the fact that there are hardly any pictures left in our books!  I don’t know about you, but the pictures were my favorite part!  I finally decided that the best thing to do about it was to create my own pictures in my head!  This is even more fun than having the illustrations on the page because I have no limits!  My characters can look exactly like I want them to and everything can be in my favorite colors!  I like to use visualization when I read things to help me understand the story better and to keep things organized in my head!”
3. “Let’s give it a try!  Everyone close your eyes as I read the poem, Water Noises by Elizabeth Roberts.  I want you to let your mind freely create different images to represent what I read aloud.”  Read the poem.  “When I read along the rocks, below the tree, I see it ripple up and wink, I pictured a small, blue stream that ran through a field of flowers.  In my mind it was summer time and the stream passed a tree full of apples and a rock with a bullfrog sitting on it!  Now does anyone want to share what they pictured?”  Have the children raise their hands to describe some of the different pictures that they saw in their imaginations.
4. “Let’s pull out our current fiction book, Sarah, Plain and Tall.  We read a little out of books silently everyday, right?  Who can tell me how we read silently?  (Review reading silently and the main things to focus on as you read silently. Ex:  When we read silently, we don’t say a word or even move our mouths!)  A great time to practice visualization is when we read silently!  Let’s continue by reading chapters four and five.”
5. Assessment:  “Now that we have read chapters four and five, I want you to pick a page or paragraph to illustrate.  (Pass out the markers/crayons and paper.)  Think about the images that popped into your head as you read it.  For example, I might choose to do the first paragraph in chapter four and draw Sarah in the bed with the two dogs that were anxiously waiting for Sarah to wake up.  I would also draw Sarah’s cat, Seal, roaming around in the background.  Do not use my example and remember to include the page number and the paragraph.”


Cole, William. A Book of Nature Poems.  Water Noises.  The Viking Press, NY, 1969,

MacLachlan, Patricia.  Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Harper Trophy, NY, 1985.

Pressley, M., Johnson, C., Symons, S.,  McGoldrick, J. A., and Kurity, J. A. (1989).
    Strategies that improve children’s memory and comprehension of text. The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

By: Sara Ellen Killian
Strategies by Pressley

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