“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
“…without visualization, students cannot comprehend, and reading
cannot be said to be reading…”
Jeffrey Wilhelm, 2004
The term visualizing implies seeing pictures. Proficient learners create images
spontaneously and purposefully throughout the reading process – before, during, and after.
The strategy of visualizing can strengthen the strategy of inferencing. When we visualize, we
are inferring, but with mental images rather than with words. Visualizing and inferring can be
woven together since images come from all five senses and emotions. The images students
conjure are rooted in their background knowledge, experiences, and their prior knowledge.
These readers immerse themselves in the details so they can gain depth and dimension into
their reading. The images are used to draw conclusions, to create distinct and unique text
interpretations, to recall significant details, and to recall the plot/story long after it is read.
Visualization allows for a reading and writing connection – images from the reading can
become part of the reader’s writing.
Proficient readers adjust their images as they continue to read to incorporate new
information and deepen their understanding of the text. Readers who are proficient in
visualization can explain how creating images enhances their comprehension (metacognitive).
The process and product of visualization is personal. Each person’s images are unique and
valuable and not everyone is comfortable sharing what they visualize. How we engage and
interact with information can be deepened through the visual images we make in our minds.
Visualization is a multi-sensory process.
Our students are very accustomed to visual literacies – websites, cartoons, graphic
novels. Students can begin to create mental images by thinking aloud, early in the strategy
study. Teachers can share their own images then ask the students to turn and talk or briefly
sketch the images they have so far. When thinking aloud, ask students to describe not only
their images but their senses as well as emotions or “images of the heart” (Keene, 2007).
We can offer the following as support for continuing their sensory exploration:
o Students can listen to old radio shows or a story on CD. Have them turn
and talk about what they are visualizing at appropriate times.
o Wordless picture books are a great starting point for beginning to teach
o Se Ch.3 “Escape” from Charlotte’s Web. It provides a vivid and detailed
description of the barn. Read it out loud then have the students share
o Have students listen to a read aloud and sketch at designated intervals
what they visualize.
o Have students search magazines for images that support a certain topic
o Timelines can be created using only pictures (cross curricular)
o Have students listen to everyday sounds and talk about the images they
o Show students optical illusions and have them talk about what they see
and their perceptions.
o Use music as a venue for kids to visualize.
o Use photos to explore visualizing. National Geographic Photography or
search for photojournalism: both sites can provide countless images that
can be expanded upon. Photos can evoke sensory images and allows
students to understand the visualization is more than making a movie in
their head. Use prompts such as the following:
What lies beyond the frame of the photo?
What sounds would surround this moment in time?
How would the air feel?
Can you smell anything in this photo?
What feelings rise up in you?
Sharing Visualizations in Think-Pair-Share (Kelley & Claussen-Grace, 2007)
- After reading this section of the text, what pictures come to mind?
- What images did you see as you read? Why do you think you saw these
- How did the author help you picture the ideas in the text?
- Did you use your senses: smell, hear, taste and feel? How?
- Highlight 5 words or phrases from the text that help you get a picture in oyur
I’m picturing ..
I can imagine …
I can feel…
I can see…
I can taste …
I can touch …
I can hear …
My mental images include …