Picture This!

Reading to Learn

Allison Boutwell

Rationale: When students have learned to read, they can begin to focus on the content of the text and comprehend what they are reading. Visualization is just one strategy that students can use to help in comprehension. Visualizing the text means that the students can watch a "movie" with their imaginations. Once students have been taught this comprehension skill, they will become more engaged in what they are reading and better understand and recall the content.


- Excerpt from Owl Moon by: Jane Yolen

- Brown Bear poem

- Class set of The Witches, by: Roald Dahl

- Crayons/markers/pencils

- Paper (one sheet per student

- Assessment checklist


1. Say: "Today, we are going to begin reading a story called The Witches by Roald Dahl. While we read, we are going to visualize the story as we read. To do this, we need to picture the words in the book like we are watching a movie in our heads. When we visualize as we read, it helps us to remember and understand what have read."

2. Say: "Before we begin reading The Witches, I am going to show you how I would visualize part of a different story. Listen as I read part of the story Owl Moon. [Read excerpt from Owl Moon by: Jane Yolen.] "Pa turned on his big flashlight and caught the owl just as it was landing on a branch." When I read that sentence, I pictured a big owl with brown feathers landing on a branch in a tall tree. I also pictured a full moon in the dark night sky."

3. Say: "Now that I've shown you what to do, I want you to practice. I am going to read you a poem about a brown bear. As I read aloud, I want you to close your eyes and imagine the words as I say them. [Read poem aloud.] Now, open your eyes. Did you visualize the words as I read? Who can share what they saw in their mind?" [Call on a few students share what they visualized with the class.]

4. Say: "Now that we have had plenty of practice with visualizing text, we are going to begin reading our new chapter book, The Witches. This story is about a little boy that lives with his grandmother. She loves to tell him stories about real witches. She tells him that these witches hate nothing more than children! Soon, the little boy will find out that the stories are true and, while he and his grandmother are on vacation, go on quite the dangerous adventure."

5. Say: "There are a couple vocabulary words in the first chapter of this story that might be new to some of you. Understanding what all of the words in a story mean will help us to visualize and understand the story better. The first word I would like to talk about is "absurdity." Absurdity means that something is ridiculous or crazy. 'I shook my head at the absurdity of that idea.' If someone shook their head at the absurdity of an idea, would they think it was a good idea? [Call on student for answer.] Right! They would probably think it was a crazy, bad idea. Let's practice using this word. Finish this sentence: The teacher laughed at the absurdity of... The next word is "quirky." Quirky means peculiar, weird, or unexpected. Chapter one describes some of the "little quirky habits that all witches have in common." Do you think a witch's quirky habits would be normal, expected habits? [Call on student for answer.] That's right! They would be weird and out of the ordinary. To practice using this word, I would like you to complete this sentence: My brother has a quirky habit of..."

6. Say: "Now that you are all more familiar with some of the harder words in this chapter, I want you all to read chapter one, "A Note about Witches," in your book silently to yourselves. Don't forget to visualize the words as you read on your own! Once you have finished, I will pass out blank sheets of paper. I want you to draw a picture of something from this chapter that you visualized. Use as many details from the story as you can in your picture. After everyone has finished drawing, turn your paper over and write about what you drew. You can also include quotes from the story that helped you visualize. When everyone is finished, you will all share what you have drawn and read your explanations or quotes to the class. [When students are done reading, pass out blank sheets of paper to each student and have them take out their pencils, crayons, and/or markers.] [When everyone is finished drawing and writing, call on students to individually present what they have done to the class.]

Assessment: As the students share their drawings and explanations with the class, assess their work using the assessment checklist (below). Students with unclear pictures or explanations should be further questioned to understand their reasoning behind what they drew/wrote. 

Comprehension Questions



Does the picture depict an image from the story?



Is the picture easy to recognize?



Are details from the story present in the picture?



Did the student provide an explanation or quote from the story to go along with the picture?



Does the explanation/quote make sense with the picture?





Dahl, Roald. The Witches. New York, New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1983. Print.

Johnson, Holly. "Finally, I See it!" The Reading Genie, Awakenings.

Lusher, Emily. "This I Gotta See!" The Reading Genie, Awakenings.

Brown Bear poem. http://poetryzone.woodshed.co.uk/resouce.htm

Yolen, Jane. Owl Moon. 1987. Print.

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