Quick Tip Tuesday: Visualizing

This week we have a quick tip from Aimee Buckner’s recent book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook. She shares three ways of visualizing a story that moves this approach from “baby strategy” to a great way of pushing students thinking.

“Visualizing brings joy to reading” (Harvey and Goudvis 2007, 132). Isn’t that the truth? When I find students who don’t like to read, the very first thing I do is ask about the pictures they see in their mind. Many times a child will look at me with a blank look as if to say, I’m supposed to see things? Others will describe basic figures—“I see the character.” Or, “I see a dog.” As students move from picture books and chapter books with pictures to chapter books without pictures, an important text structure is missing for them. Strong readers have to provide that structure within their own mind in order to enjoy what they read.

The three levels of visualization that my classes and I have identified include still pictures, movies, and experience. In order to help students differentiate between these levels in their writing, I’ve tweaked the general visualizing strategy—sketching a picture—to indicate how students are “seeing” their books.

Visualizing Strategy I: Still Pictures
When readers see still pictures in their minds, the story comes across like a photo album. Each picture is separate from another picture—one picture per page of text. They visualize the story page by page, picture by picture. Many times readers will develop these pictures using the information from the book. In the notebook: Draw a picture and write about it.

Visualizing Strategy II: At the Movies
When readers begin to link the pictures and the character starts to move through their mind, the book unfolds like a movie. Readers actually move from reading each word and trying to make pictures, to the act of watching the book in their mind. In the notebook: Draw a sketch of the scenes you see playing out in your mind. Write about the things you see happening that are not in the story—the extra details your mind puts in to make the movie seem real.

Visualizing Strategy III: Experience the Story
This is the ultimate level of visualizing—actually feeling like you, the reader, have experienced the story along with the characters. You’re there in the fictional world and become a part of the story. In the notebook: Write about your thoughts, feelings—emotional and physical—and opinions regarding the story, problem, characters, and so forth. Pay attention to details that anchor you to this world when you read. When you’re not reading, what things in the story does your mind drift back to? What is the afterthought?

Layering this strategy for my students in different levels has opened up their eyes to the different ways readers might visualize. No longer is this a cute picture activity for my students. Many of my better readers were thinking that visualizing was a baby strategy—only beginners need to do it when they begin reading chapter books. Understanding that visualizing is more than seeing a picture in your head has helped my students push their thinking in regards to how they visualize. It also helps them monitor their thinking. If they are used to seeing movies and suddenly they find themselves in a book where they can only make a still picture, the book is taking more concentration for them. It may be that the content or words are more diffi cult. Students don’t have to abandon the book, but they can acknowledge that they are moving to more challenging text and need to refocus their concentration rather than trying to zip through it. Likewise, the fi rst time a child really experiences a book, it’s like no other. The surprised look on a child’s face when she or he first discovers that magical world and finally knows what it’s like to be in a story makes the struggle of teaching and learning worth it. It makes me feel like I’ve saved a child’s reading life. A bit dramatic, but true. It’s hard to really experience a book and then not continue to read the rest of your life.

1 comment June 8th, 2010


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