Lights! Camera! Imagination!

A Reading to Learn Lesson by Elizabeth Bryant

Rationale: Once readers are fluent readers, they can begin to read to learn. However, children need to learn strategies in order to aid them in comprehending passages of text. One such strategy is for fluent readers to visualize the story as they read. Research shows that children who are "trained to visualize are better at detecting inconsistencies in a text… monitor comprehension… and develop metacognitive skills" (Murray). One way to practice visualizing is by picturing the story in your heads.



~ Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

~ Square sheets of White paper or cardstock

~ crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.

~ numbered cards with sections of the text printed on it. You can split the text up by putting a page's worth of text on a card and numbering the text according to the order in the book. Most pages are similar in length and difficulty but there are shorter, easier passages and longer, more difficult passages to cover the varying levels of your students.

~chart paper with vocabulary words written on it along with the definitions.

Reference to Published Lesson Plan:

Hill, Sandi. Developing Literacy Using Reading Manipulatives. See it in your mind. Cypress, CA. Creative Teaching Press, Inc., 1997. Pg. 88.

Holliman, Linda. Teachin' Smart. Q is for… Question Quilts. Huntington Beach, CA. Creative Teaching Press, Inc. 1999. Pg. 45.


1. Say: When we read stories, sometimes it is hard to follow the story line and comprehend what we're reading. However, when we visualize what we're reading by using our imaginations, we get wrapped up in the book as if we were watching a movie! We see images in our minds that help us to understand what we're reading. We can also think back on those images later and better remember what we read.

2. Say: Today we're going to read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco and instead of looking at the pictures we are going to visualize images in our minds! But first we're going to learn some vocabulary to help us understand the text.

                Sultry- Sultry means to be extremely hot. A sultry summer day would be an unusually hot day that is also moist and humid. Your skin often feels hot and sticky on sultry days. A dry hot day would not be described as sultry. A humid and hot day when it feels like it's going to rain in the heat of the summer would be described as sultry.

Michigan- Michigan is a state in the north central part of the United States. It is known for the Great Lakes but in our story for today, the setting is on a farm in Michigan. (Show the children where Michigan is on a map of the United States.)

                Babushka- In Russia, children call their grandmothers "Babushka."

                Horizon- The line that forms between the earth and the sky is the horizon. It often seems very far off.

                Surveyed- To survey something means to look around and take in information. If I was to survey the sky I would notice things like the clouds, what color they are, what kind of clouds they are, where the sun is, and other things that had to do with the sky. It's not just glancing at something or taking a quick peak.

                Strode- Strode is the past tense of stride. Stride means to take long steps. When you stride, you have a reason for wanting to walk somewhere quickly. Walking in a stride does not mean running and it does not mean to walk slowly and relaxed. To walk in a stride signals that person is on a mission!

                Trellis- A trellis is a frame that plants or vines wrap around as they grow upward. Trellises help support the growth of certain flowers and fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes. (a visual cue may be useful)

                Luscious- Luscious means pleasing in taste and smell. A luscious piece of fruit would look and taste really good. It would not be dull or have brown spots but would be beautiful and taste extra good.

Overripe- Overripe means that a food is past the usual stage of being ready to eat or use. Overripe does not mean rotten. The food is not bad usually, it is just past when you would usually pick it or use it. Sometimes it's better to cook with overripe fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes.

(After you go over the vocabulary ask if there are any questions and make sure the children know they can refer back to the vocabulary chart throughout the lesson.)

3. Say: Now that we know some of the words we'll encounter as we read Thunder Cake, let's get excited about learning how to visualize text! Thunder Cake is a wonderful tale of a grandmother who helps her granddaughter get over her fear of thunderstorms. I wonder in what creative ways the grandmother will accomplish this?! I'm going to use the first page to teach you how to visualize a story. As I read, I am going to create images in my head that relate to the story and help me better understand what is happening. Once I read a section, I am going to close my eyes so that I can better visualize what I just read. That way, there are no distractions and I will be able to focus on the story and the movie I am creating in my head!

4. Say: Ok! I am going to model how to visualize. Listen carefully! (Read from the first page but don't show the children the pictures) "On sultry days at my grandma's farm in Michigan, the air gets damp and heavy." (Close your eyes momentarily and show the children you're thinking by pointing to your brain) I know that sultry means it is a hot and humid day and that the grandmother and granddaughter are on a farm in Michigan so I am picturing them next to a barn with fields next to it. I also am picturing them sweating and doing farm chores like feeding the animals and shoveling hay. (Open your eyes and continue reading) "Stormclouds drift low over the fields. Birds fly close to the ground." (Close eyes, etc.) Now I am adding low storm clouds to my picture in my head. They are gray and large. I am also visualizing birds flying under the clouds to avoid the storm. They are flying fast to make it home. (Keep reading) "The clouds glow for an instant with a sharp, crackling light, and then a roaring, low, tumbling sound of thunder makes the windows shudder in their panes." (Close eyes) Now I am imagining the grandmother and granddaughter stopping to look at the sky as the storm lets itself know it's coming. I also add a nearby house to my mind movie. Its windows are rattling.

5. Say: Let's try a sentence together. Close your eyes and listen. Visualize what I say: A black and white cow standing next to the barn just kicked over an entire bucket of milk! Were you able to visualize this scene? Could you draw a picture of what you visualized? Now let's try a passage together! I'm going to continue to read from Thunder Cake and I want you to close your eyes and visualize as I read, then you will share what you visualized! Make sure to not put your head down but to concentrate on the words and on visualizing the story. Let's make a movie in our heads! I'm going to start the passage over but read further so you can visualize the story better! (Read the first page of the book slowly and with expression so that the children can visualize.) Who would like to share what they saw in their heads as I read?

6. Say: Now that you have an idea of what Thunder Cake is about and we know needed vocabulary, I'm sure you can't wait to continue to read and visualize this wonderful story! I'm going to continue to read the story but I'm not going to show you the pictures. I want you to visualize what's happening in the story. You do not have to close your eyes but you can if it helps just don't fall asleep! After we read, you're going to get a section of the story to illustrate based on what you visualized so pay extra special attention and really concentrate on visualizing! (Read the story without showing pictures, stopping periodically to remind the children to be visualizing and to encourage them in doing so.)

7. Say: Now that we've read the story, I want for you to put you mind movie on paper! I'm going to give you a card with a passage from the story on it. Read the passage, visualize what is happening in the passage and then draw what you visualize on the piece of square paper I will give you. Remember to look back on our vocabulary chart if you need it! On the back, describe what you drew. Make sure to make it look as lovely as you can because once all of the images are done we are going to make the pictures into a quilt to display in the hall (or in the room!). When you turn it in, turn in the passage card as well and I will staple it to the back of the picture so we can know what order to put the quilt in! Some of you may have the same passage and that is ok because you have different imaginations! (Pass out the supplies and let the children begin! As they work, walk around to make sure they are on task and answer questions as needed. As they finish, let them share their creations with the class. After this is finished, evaluate their understanding of visualizing by assessing their picture and explanation. A good next step would be to put the pictures in order and have the children retell the story using their visualization images before putting them on the wall.)

 (Assessment should include whether the picture connects to the text and if the explanation makes sense with the picture the child drew and with the text.)

Other References:

Polacco, Patricia. Thunder Cake. New York: Scholastic, 1992. Print.

Pressley: Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text, November 8th, 2011

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