One of the most common questions I get asked is how to help students improve reading comprehension. There are many books on this topic, and the vast majority of strategies involve a structured and mindful approach to teaching this skill. While this can serve many students, I have found that the best possible tool to nurture voracious readers is to teach students how to apply visualization skills while reading.
Although this is not a strategy that is taught often, the research behind this approach is robust and has been used for centuries.
Why is Visualization Important in the Reading Process?
Can you imagine what it would be like to go to the movies with your eyes closed? Who would want to do that? It would be hard to maintain attention. In addition, it would be difficult to comprehend and remember the plot, because images help to support the storyline and develop the characters.
Similarly, reading without visualizing can cause comparable difficulties with attention, comprehension, and memory. I have noticed that those students that report that they "hate to read" have repeatedly admitted that they get little to no mental imagery while reading. When I have taught this "magical" skill to my students, comprehension skills skyrocket and enjoyment in the reading process is ignited.
Why is Visualization so Powerful?
1) Mental imagery aids memory - a single picture can "express a thousand words."
2) Visualization assures that a reader is maintaining attention.
3) Mental imagery helps to keep characters stable.
4) Self-generated visuals are memorable because they are created in the mind of the reader.
Does Visualization Aid Other Academic Subjects?
Mental imagery can be used in all learning environments and can also be used to trigger memories. I teach it to help my students encode new content and show them how they can use it, with hooking techniques, to retrieve the needed information in testing situations.
What Can I Do to Help Teach Visualization Skills?
I have found that the best way to teach visualization is through games and mindful discussions. To help with this process, I wrote a book entitled Mindful Visualization for Education. This 132-page downloadable PDF provides a review of the research, assessment tools, over twenty game-like activities, lesson suggestions in all subject areas, as well as vocabulary development and listening materials. In addition, I created two PowerPoint downloads that review the ten core skills that need to be developed to optimize visualization abilities.
If you have any thoughts on the use of visualization for learning, please post a comment or question! Also, if you have had some success with visualization in the classroom, please share your experiences.
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
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