While the early years of reading instruction are steeped in teaching students to “break the code,” equally important is building meaning from text and shared readings. Too often, comprehension takes a back seat to phonics, while it should be developed concurrently as the student learns to decode. Deciding which comprehension strategies are the most effective can be challenging, but a recent practice guide from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade provides evidenced-based practices and implementation plans to teach reading comprehension skills to young children. The guide rates the effectiveness of each specific evidenced-based recommendation.
The first recommendation is to teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies. In this section, visualization is found to result in large and statistically significant gains in comprehension. The authors suggest that direct instruction of visualization is important to build comprehension from reading or hearing text. Students who visualize as they read not only have a richer reading experience but can recall what they have read for a longer time (Harvey & Goudvis 2000).
How to begin teaching visualization:
- Explain to students that visualization of what happens in the text will help them remember what they read (heard)
- Have the students examine objects placed in front of them, and later a picture depicting a scene. Remove the objects and pictures and ask the students what they saw
- Read a sentence and (model) for the students what you saw
- Choose sections from the text and ask students to practice visualizing
(From: Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade)
Visualization can be taught to our youngest students. You can begin with a short read-aloud book, telling the students that you will read the story, but not show the pictures. Students are asked to draw what they hear in the story. The teacher should model the process for the children. Additional visualization lesson plans and booklists can be found at liketoread.com
While visualization is often thought of a skill for early readers, it can also be used with more experienced readers. The hope is that with continued experience with visualization students will use automatically use it as they read.
“When readers create mental images, they engage with text in ways that make it personal and memorable to them alone. Anchored in prior knowledge, images come from emotions and all five senses, enhancing understanding and immersing a reader in rich details.” –Keene and Zimmerman, Mosaic of Thought