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Visual Imagery

The Visual Imagery strategy asks students to imagine/create a mental image, rich in sensory content (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) of the content of a reading selection. Most often, the mental picture will draw from a student's past experiences, connecting the content of the reading selection to the reader's prior knowledge.

Visual imagery encourages reading comprehension in two ways:

  • By provided a springboard for memory recall and retention.

  • By making reading an active rather than passive process—that is, by stimulating the mental interplay of new ideas and past experiences.

Steps to Visual Imagery:

  1. Assign students a reading selection that is rich in visual and other sensory details.

  2. Read the passage aloud to students as they follow along reading the printed text.

  3. Throughout the reading process, stop and ask students to visualize the specific details just read. Have students share their sensory impressions with each other. If necessary, prompt student responses with specific questions like "What do you hear?" and "What do you smell?"

  4. Have students compare their visualizations. Point out common images and the specific text passages that produced them. Challenge students to explain the differences in their visualizations, especially those that radically depart from the shared images.

Learn More:

  • Samples, R. (1977). The wholeschool book. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

  • Visual Imagery


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