Visualization is Picture Perfect

Reading to Learn Design

Marguerite DeWitt



For better comprehension when reading, children should be able to visualize what they are reading. There is consistent evidence that visualization, or constructing images, facilitates children's learning of text. In this lesson, children will learn how to and practice constructing images from their reading.



- Copies of the poem "The Marrog" by R. C. Scriven for each student

- 2 pieces of white paper for each student (or you can use the Sketch-to-Stretch template link provided   below).

- Crayons

- Copies of the chapter book Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan for each student

- Assessment checklist:
                Did the student draw a picture?                                                 ___Y___N
                Were the drawings accurate for the poem?                             ___Y___N
                Were the drawings accurate for assigned reading(s)?           ___Y___N
                Were the drawings detailed?                                                     ___Y___N       
                Did the student describe in detail the events?                         ___Y___N 
                (if some can’t draw as well you can let students describe what they are picturing; it is important not to grade the level of the art work)


1. Begin the lesson by explaining to the class the importance of constructing images while reading. Say: "When we create pictures in our heads about what we read, we are more likely to remember what we read and understand it better."

2.  Model visualization for the students; say: "I am going to read this sentence and show you how I would visualize." Write: "The dog barked and wagged his tail excitedly when he saw the red ball" on the board and then read it aloud to the class.  Say: "What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read this sentence?  When I read this sentence this is what I picture in my head (draw it on the board as you explain your thought process). First I'm going to draw a sandy colored dog that looks like it is happy and wagging his tail.  I'm going to make sure to draw his mouth open since the dog is barking.  What else is there? I'm also going to draw the red ball that he is excited to play with. I can picture in my head a beautiful sunny day, with a bright blue sky, and green grass all around.  Each of you probably pictured the scene a little differently in your head, because each one of us is unique. It is just important that you make some type of picture in your mind to help you understand and remember what you are reading."

3. Write this new sentence on the board: "The turtle walked slowly along as the rabbit darted quickly past him". Say: "Remember how we learned to read silently? I want you guys to be doing that while I read the sentence aloud". Read it once to the class aloud and then have the students read the sentence silently, and then draw the image that they have in their head onto their papers as best they can. Have the students present their work to the rest of the class and remind them that it is alright that they do not all look the same.

4.  Explain to the students that it is important not to try and create mental images at the same time they are reading. Tell them that they should read a short portion of the selected text and create an image from that and then proceed with the next small portion, and so on.



 In order to assess each student's ability to visualize as they read, pass out a copy of "The Marrog" by R. C. Scriven.  Say: "'The Marrog' is a poem about an alien and how strange he looks! What does he look like to you?" then instruct the students to read this poem and then draw some of the images that they construct in their mind about it.  For further assessment, have students begin to read or continue to read a chapter book. I suggest reading Sarah, Plain and Tall because it has very vivid descriptions of characters and settings, which makes it easy to visualize. Say: "This is a story about two children whose mother has died.  Their dad decides to take a new wide.  She is from a different and faraway place.  Will she like them?  Will they like her?  We'll have to read to find out!"  Have students keep a "sketch journal" and encourage students to sketch what they visualize in their minds as they read each chapter. Use the assessment checklist to assess each student’s visualization and comprehension (it is applicable to both assessment options).  Individualize some comprehension questions for whichever text you read.  For example, for "The Marrog" ask questions like: "Do you think there is really a Marrog sitting in the class, why or why not?" or "What would you do if there was a Marrog in your classroom?" and for Sarah, Plain and Tall include questions such as: "How do the kids feel about Sarah coming to stay with them?" and "How are Sarah's new home and old home similar?  How are they different?" etcetera. 


-MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. Scholastic Inc., 1985.

-Pressley, Michael, et al. "Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and   Comprehension of Text". The       Elementary School Journal 90.1 (1989): 9-13.

-Read.Write.Think. "Guided Comprehension: Visualizing using the Sketch-to-Stretch Strategy".

-Scriven, R. C. "The Marrog". Random House, 1983.

-Stretch-to-Sketch template:

-The Reading Genie Website: Etch a Sketch to Stretch.  By: Alicia Ellis.

-The Reading Genie Website: How to See With Your Eyes Closed. By: Mareena Kohtala.

Return to Projects index.