Visual Imaging

What is Visual Imaging?

The practice of imaging or mentally visualizing objects, events or situations is a powerful process that assists students to construct meaning as they listen and read. As students read and listen to others, they incorporate their knowledge and previous experiences to form images of situations, settings, characters and events. These images extend students’ comprehension, enrich their personal interpretations and stimulate unique ideas for writing. Imaging provides the opportunity for students to experience vicariously what they hear, read and write.

What is its purpose?

  • to provide opportunities for students to share personal interpretations of literary selections
  • to develop students’ ability to create images and ideas by relating their previous knowledge and experiences to what is heard and read
  • to develop students’ ability to monitor for meaning as they read and write

How can I do it?

  • Reading:
    • When reading to students, periodically pause to share your personal perceptions and images evoked by the author’s language.
    • Initially, encourage students to visualize the characters in stories.
    • Gradually extend their visualizing experiences to include the setting and story events.
    • Discussing personal images and interpretations provides students’ with a deeper understanding of the text.
    • Students may record or describe the images evoked by texts in their reading logs and during conference
  • Writing:
    • As a prewriting activity, teachers can guide students through an imaging exercise.
      • Have students concentrate on a situation, event or experience.
      • Create a setting or situation with minimal description and explanation such as the experience of walking through a forest in late fall.
      • Focus on using key words related to this experience that will elicit sensory responses.
      • Encourage students to share the images created and the feelings aroused.
      • Collaboratively determine and record the words or phrases that evoke and describe the images.
      • These words or phrases could be recorded under the categories of sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings.
      • Have students try to incorporate these words and phrases in their writing efforts.
      • Students should be encouraged to use imaging as a prewriting activity for independent writing.
  • Spelling:
    • Students can be taught to use imaging for remembering and recalling spellings of words. A basic procedure for helping students visualize words of current relevance to them and to the topic of study is as follows:
      • have the students imagine that they are watching a large video screen or computer monitor
      • have them focus on a blank screen
      • display a printed word and ask students to print that word on their imaginary screens
      • have students describe the colours and shapes of their letters, and silently read the letters in order
      • have students write the words on their papers from memory and check what they have written
      • have students verify spellings by comparing their words to the displayed words
      • if their spellings are incorrect, the imaging process should be repeated.
      • When students are comfortable with creating images of words, they can apply this strategy independently to encode the spellings of words.
      • To incorporate a new word into their writing vocabularies, students should look at the word, cover the word, visualize it on their screen, then write the word from memory and verify what they have written.
      • If the word is spelled incorrectly, the imaging process should be repeated.
        When discussing spelling patterns and letter combinations, teachers should encourage students to use imaging.
      • When recalling the spelling of a word, students should say the word, visualize it and then write the word. 

How can I adapt it?

  • Visual imaging can be used to generate ideas for collaborative writing activities.
  • Imaging can be used to introduce a new concept, topic or literary selection as a way of having students recall prior knowledge and experiences.
  • Strategies which may incorporate visual imaging include:
    • Contextual drama
    • Discussions
    • Guided reading and thinking
    • Journals
    • Literature study
    • Reading logs
    • Story grammar
    • Story mapping
    • Webbing

Assessment & Evaluation Considerations

  • Observe students during reading and writing activities to note students’ use of this strategy.
  • During writing conferences, discuss the use of interesting language and descriptive details that create images for readers.
  • Listen to students’ interpretations of literary selections to determine the depth of their comprehension, images and personal responses.
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