Snap a Picture as You Read

Reading to Learn Lesson Design

Created By: Jessica Klida

Rationale: Once students are able to read fluently, it is important for them to learn new skills that help increase their reading comprehension. Visualization is a comprehension skill in which students use their imaginations to visualize a text. Visualization is a vital way to make connections between the ideas in a text and background knowledge. It is important for students to be able to visualize a text as they read so that they can understand and comprehend the text more efficiently. Once students begin reading chapter books without illustrations, visualization can aide in comprehending the story. Through visualization, students will be able to understand the setting, characters, and plot of a story more thoroughly.

Materials: Class set of Sarah, Plain and Tall, White paper, Crayons/colored pencils/pencils, Assessment Checklist for each student, Comprehension Check for each student


1. Say: "We are going to practice using our minds to understand the stories that we read. We can do that by visualizing. Does anyone know what it means to visualize? [Listen to student responses] Say: "When we can visualize a story, it means that we can read a story and picture what is happening in our minds. When we do that, it helps us understand what is going on in the story and it also helps us to see the characters and settings where the story is taking place. When we have books without pictures, it is really important to visualize so that you can create your own illustrations in your mind."

2. Say: "I am going to model how we can visualize text. I am going to read a section out of our book and I will draw what I see on the board as I read. I want you to close your eyes and listen to me read and then draw what you imagined. What I visualize may be different from what you visualize and that is okay because our imaginations work differently. Let's start." [Begin reading part from book: 'Sarah and Maggie helped hitch the horses to the plow, and then they set up a big table in the shade of the barn, covering it with a quilt and a kettle of flowers in the middle.'] Say: "Now, as I draw my picture, I want you to draw what you imagined in your mind." [Have students draw their picture and you draw a picture of a table, covered with a quilt, and a kettle of flowers in the middle of it, beside a barn.] Say: "I pictured the table covered with a quilt and the flowers as described in this sentence so I drew a table beside the barn with a quilt and flowers in a kettle in the middle of the table. I have seen barns before so I drew my barn based off of what I have seen before. I also know what a kettle looks like, so I was able to draw it. I am going to come around and take a look at yours." [View students' pictures]

3. Say: "The book we are going to work with today is Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan." Give the following book-talk: "Anna and Caleb are children who live with their Papa. Their mother passed away so their Papa is lonely. Papa puts an ad in a newspaper for a wife, and a lady named Sarah answers by writing letters. Sarah lives far away by the sea, and Anna and Caleb are hoping she will come be their new mother. Will she travel to take care of them? Will Anna and Caleb get a new mother?"

4. [Introduce vocabulary] Say: "In this story, there are a few words you may have never heard before. Because this story takes place in the past, we don't usually hear these words used anymore. We are going to learn these words so that we can make sense of the story. Our vocabulary words are: hearthstones, homely, plains."

·        Discuss vocabulary words using the following steps:

     Word: hearthstone

1. Say definition: "A hearthstone is the bottom of a fireplace, which is usually made out of rock or brick."

2. Say example of the word used in the text: "Here is an example of how the word is used in our book. 'It made a hollow scraping sound on the hearthstones, and the dogs stirred.'

3. Ask question to ensure student understanding: "Would you find a hearthstone in your living room or in your backyard?"

4. Ask students to complete a sentence using the word: "Now I want you to complete a sentence using hearthstone. Use the following sentence, 'When I touched the hearthstone, I _____________.'

[Repeat vocabulary instruction using listed steps with the remaining vocabulary words]

5. Say: "Now we are ready to read and practice visualizing. Remember, we picture what we read in our minds to help us understand the story. I want you to read Chapter 1 of Sarah, Plain and Tall. As you read, picture in your mind the house they live in, what the characters look like, and other things that may be described in the story. After you finish, think about something that gave you a detailed image in your mind. I want you to draw it and then write a sentence from the book describing what you visualized. So, if I read, 'I held the bread dough up in a round ball', I am going to draw a hand holding up a round ball of dough, and then I am going to write that sentence. Okay, let's start!" [Have students read and then draw their pictures. Observe students' drawings to ensure that they are connecting their images with the story.]

6. Assessment: Assess the students' ability to visualize text by examining their drawings and sentences using the following checklist. Also, use the comprehension check to ensure that students are comprehending the text. Each student will need to answer the questions so hand out the comprehension check to each student and have them write their answers.

Visualization Checklist


Student draws a representation of a scene from the book

 Yes    No

Sentence describes the scene from the book using a sentence excerpt

 Yes    No

Student can orally connect the representation with the sentence excerpt

 Yes    No



Comprehension Check

 Write your answers using complete sentences.

Where do you think Sarah is from? List clues from the story that you make you think this.


Why do  you think Anna and Caleb are writing letters to Sarah?


Do  you think this story took place in the present or in the past? Why?




Adams, Kelley. Reading to Learn Lesson Design. Creative Minds.

MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York, NY. HarperCollins, 1985.

Russell, Jennifer. Reading to Learn Lesson Design. Mind Reading.

Click here to return to Rendezvous index.