Creating Mental Images: Visualizing to Improve Understanding in all Content Areas

Instructional Strategies: 

What is visualizing?  

Visualizing text means forming mental pictures of the text that is being read. Skilled readers use visualization to imagine or construct a picture of the topic the author is discussing. However, this can be challenging for struggling readers who may lack background knowledge on the text, or be too busy trying to decode the text to form mental images.

Critical across content areas

The ability of a student to visualize text applies across all content areas and is useful for building understanding regardless how simple or advanced the text.

  • Fiction. Helps students see the characters, their actions, and the environments in which they live.
  • Math. Provides students with the ability to follow steps in a word problem, imagine dimensions, and model outcomes.
  • Non-fiction/Social Studies. Supports student understanding of the setting during an event or time-period, and it can give students insight into the lives of historical figures.
  • Science. Allows students to picture the steps of a procedure or experiment, movement of cells, and interactions between elements. In addition, as science becomes increasingly more abstract, it helps students conceptualize systems beyond what is visible and tactile.

How does it support learning? 

  • Aids in processing information
  • Makes reading text feel more real to readers.
  • Encourages active reading and deep engagement with text
  • Helps readers take ownership of the text as they fill in details that the author does not spell out
  • Deepens understanding
  • Makes reading more vivid, personal and engaging
  • Activates student background knowledge on a topic

Technology supports  

Use technology tools and applications to bring the text to life for students who struggle to visualize text as they read. Virtual reality field trips and interactive applications and software help make an abstract idea seem more tangible. Be sure to look for resources with built-in prompts, embedded supports, and accessible features.

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