Flying High in Our Imaginations

Reading to Learn

Molly McCormick



            One of the most important values of reading is comprehension.  Without comprehension, readers are not able to understand and follow the sequence of events in stories.  This lesson will help students learn how to visualize the text as they read by painting a picture in their head. Visualization makes the story come alive and helps the reader to remember the sequence of events.  By teaching visualization techniques, the readers will learn how to visualize while reading, thus comprehending. 



-  class set of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
-  white paper
-  coloring materials (crayons, color pencils, markers)


1. “Good morning, class!  Everyone this morning is going to be a bird, so I need you to close your eyes and think of a bird in your head that you want to be.  You can be a robin sitting on her nest of eggs in a family’s back yard, a seagull flying over the beach, a big black crow sitting in a pumpkin patch, or even a beautiful swan with big white wings.  You can be any bird you want, just use your imagination!  Now that everyone has the type of bird they want to be, imagine that you are flying over a forest high up in the sky.  What is the weather like?  Is it bright and sunny or raining?  Hot or cold?  What type of trees are you flying over?  Are they big and filled with leaves or twiggy and bare?  Create your surroundings.  You’re looking down at the beautiful land; maybe you see mountains, trees, possibly a lake, when all of a sudden, BAM!!!  Oh no, you flew into something!!  What did you fly into?  Now open your eyes.  You are no longer birds; you are students back in the classroom.”

2.   Call 3 students to the front of the room and have them briefly share what type of bird they were, the surroundings they created for their bird, and the object they visualized flying into. 

3.  “Class, did you notice that these 3 student’s visualizations are all different?  That is the neat thing about visualizing because we can let our imaginations paint pictures in our heads, and everyone’s ‘brain painting’ is unique and different.” 

4.    “Even though many times we all visualize things different, visualizing can help us to see the same thing when the information given is more specific like in a story.  Sometimes visualizations can help us find things and solve problems.  For example, if I asked one of you to go to the grocery store and buy General Mill’s Honey Nut Cheerios in the brown-gold box in the smallest size on aisle 8, you would visualize that in your head while I am describing the cereal to you.  When you get to the store, you would look for exactly what you had visualized.”

5.  “So far we’ve talked about how important visualization is and how much fun it can be when painting ‘brain pictures’ and trying to solve problems.  Probably one of the most important ways to apply your visualizing technique is when you are reading because it is a great way to become a better reader!  Now that you are getting older and becoming better readers you have started to read longer books with more words and less pictures. Just because a book doesn’t have a lot of pictures doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book it just means that it’s up to us as the readers to visualize as we read.”

6. “How do you think that visualization might help us to read stories better?”  Allow a few students to give their answers. “That’s right, when we read a sentence we can pick up on descriptions and paint ‘brain pictures.’  When might visualizing be very important in a story? That’s right, when we are learning about the characters and setting.”

7.  “Today we are going to start reading the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  There are so many fascinating creatures, characters, and settings in this book, so let your mind run wild while you are reading and visualize everything you read in your head.”

8.  “I want you to read the first chapter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and when you are finished, you will draw your most memorable ‘brain picture’ that you visualized while reading.  You can let me know about the characters or the setting or a specific scene through your drawing, but use as much detail as you can. I should be able to look at your picture and visualize the section of the chapter you had drawn.”



Allow students enough time to read the story and draw their pictures. They will turn in the pictures that were drawn. The pictures should be graded using the following guidelines as a checklist

            - Did the student draw a picture?
            - Does the picture relate to the first chapter?
            - Does the picture relate to characters or setting?
            - Is the picture interpretable?
            - Does the picture display detail?
            - Does the picture portray comprehension of the first chapter?


            - Tidwell, Casey. “The Adventure of Visualization.”     

            - Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Bloomsbury Children's Books, 1997.

Dr. Murray's Reading Genie
Auburn University