Reading to Learn
by: Ruth Scroggins
 Picture This

Rationale:  To improve comprehension, children can learn to create mental images.  These representational images allow children to visualize information into a summarized picture, making cued recall easier.  In this lesson, the children will be led through constructing mental images for sentences and eventually move to constructing them for paragraphs of narrative prose.
paper, crayons, copies of included paragraphs
1.  We will discuss the idea of visualizing.  ãClass, does anyone know what it means to visualize something?ä  I will wait for any ideas and allow discussion, assuring that the conclusive definition is ãTo visualize something is to make a picture of it in your mind.  We are going to each try to do this.  I want everyone to close their eyes and listen to the sentence I read.  While I am reading, I want you to Îvisualizeâ or make a picture of the sentence in your minds.ä
2.  Read the sentence ãÎThe mouse ran away from the angry cook.â  Who made a picture of the sentence in their minds?ä
3.  ãNow I am going to give you each a piece of paper and some crayons.  I want you each to draw a picture of the sentence picture you just made in your mind.  Try your best and do not worry if it is different from the person beside you.  We all have different minds with different pictures.ä
4.  Allow the children to draw their pictures and share everyoneâs to show the differences.  Try a couple more sentence picture activities.  The following are some possible sentences:
-The fish swam by the bullfrog.
-The dog chased the cat around the house.
Come up with your own creative sentences to use and make it fun!
5.  After the class seems to have mastered this, move on to giving them a paragraph to summarize in their minds with a visual picture.  ãAll right, class.  I need you all to listen to this short paragraph.  This time instead of closing our eyes we will all listen and summarize as we go.
6.  Read the following paragraph from C.S Lewisâ Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, stopping along, modeling for the class where you would stop to make mental pictures   (the suggested stops will be marked by *).  Explain to the class that when you read a paragraph, ãIt is often best to keep several pictures in your mind until the end where you can come up with one good picture, containing all that is important to the pargraph.ä
 ãEveryone agreed to this and that was how the adventures began.  It was the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places.*  The first few doors they tried led only into spare bedrooms, as everyone had expected they would, but soon they came to a very long room full of pictures and there they found a suit of armor*; and after that there was a room all hung with green, with a harp in one corner*; and then came three steps down and five steps up, and then a kind of little upstairs hall and a door that led out onto a balcony*, and then a whole series of rooms that led into each other and were lined with books-most of them very old books and some bigger than a Bible in a church*.  And shortly after that they looked into a room that was quite empty except for one big wardrobe; the sort that has a looking glass in the door.  There was nothing else in the room except a dead blue bottle on the window-sill*.ä (pg.76)

Sample model stop- ãO.K.  We have an idea of the house we are in.  Is it a big one or a little one?  Itâs big, youâre right!  So letâs keep that in mind as we read on some more.ä
7.  Continue these model stops until you think the class is adapting to the idea of simply holding the idea in their heads until the end, to draw one concluding picture encompassing the main idea of the paragraph.
8.  After you have been through the entire paragraph, ask the class to list some important pictures they remember making in their minds.  ãClass, what do you think would be a good picture to draw on our papers to help us remember the important parts of this paragraph?ä  Allow them to each draw what they would suggest as the appropriate picture and ask them to explain why.  This will give you an idea as a teacher, where they are in their understanding of mental imagery and help you in assessing your students.
9.  Have students read the following paragraph and draw a ãmental pictureä to share with the class about the paragraph.
 ãThere was crisp, dry snow under his feet and more snow lying on the branches of the trees.  Overhead there was a pale blue sky, the sort of sky one sees on a fine winter day in the morning.  Straight ahead of him he saw between the tree trunks the sun, just rising, very red and clear.  Everything was perfectly still, as if he were the only living creature in that country.  There was not even a robin or a squirrel among the trees, and the wood stretched out as far as he could see in every direction.  He shivered.ä (pg. 84)
10.  For assessment, let the students share their pictures with the class, explaining their reasons for drawing them as they did.
Reference:  Pressley, M., et. al. (1989).  Strategies That Improve Childrenâs Memory and Comprehension of Text. The Elementary School Journal.