Visualization is a strategy used in K-12 courses for reading comprehension. It has been used successfully in classes for Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (classes for English language learners) and as an introductory exercise for any class studying a new text. Visualization asks students to visualize a text's images as mental pictures and then replicate them--in a drawing, a tableau or a "mind movie." Numerous examples of visualization for reading are available to teachers.

Artistic Response

Teaching a visualization strategy always begins with modeling; this clarifies for teacher and students alike what the strategy looks like and what it will do. An excellent beginning visualization exercise is the artistic response. Students in groups read a shared text, then create individual works of art representing what they've read. The students can share drawings with their group and the class. It's an excellent strategy for cross-curricular activities as well, particularly music, where visuals enhance the aural experience, and mathematics, where the visual aspect often clarifies problems.

Guided Imagery

A variation on artistic response is guided imagery. A teacher reads the class a text rich with imagery and sensory details after asking students to close their eyes during the reading. The teacher then asks the class to "share the movie" created in their minds, recording student input on an overhead or whiteboard. This is an excellent comprehension technique as it activates prior knowledge and gives students the ability to visually perceive ideas. This strategy helps clarify and solve problems, all by using the imagination.


Tableau is an effective visualization strategy to use during reading, especially if students are not shy. Students read a text and then, in front of the class, create living pictures of what they have read: One student is Goldilocks and three others are the bears, for example. They select and recreate a scene from the text, then freeze; the teacher touches each student in turn. Whomever the teacher touches comes "alive" and talks about the scene from the character's own perspective.

Story Wheel

The story wheel strategy requires some planning but is quite rewarding as a visualization. A story wheel is two circles drawn on paper, a smaller one inside a larger; the larger is divided, pie-like, into six "slices," thus creating six sections on the page. Working within groups, students read a text and pick the six most important events from the beginning, middle and end of the narrative. They then draw pictures in the compartments for each of the six scenes their group selects. They label the inner circle with the text's name and author and display their wheels.