Visualizing the Story Increases Comprehension

A favorite pastime when I was a child was paint by number. I reveled in the tiny jolt of anticipation as I slid the fresh canvas from the box. The swirls of blue lines and tiny numbers were dizzying, a blueprint for artistic genius. I inhaled the slightly stinging smell of oily paints as I popped open the miniature, numbered pots and set to work coloring in all of the number 2’s or 28’s. Sometimes, if I squinted just so, I could make out the
basic forms of the picture being rendered – the eye of the horse or the soft curve of her muzzle; the inevitable star upon the stallion’s forehead. (Mine were always of horses). Thank goodness for the image on the box to make sense of the randomly scattered shapes and colors.

Children who are learning to read will likewise dramatically increase their comprehension if they have a vision of the story they are working on. When coaching students to strengthen their reading skills, a key enabling strategy is helping them visualize the story, using all of their senses. What does a jungle look like? Sound like? Smell like? Is it hot or cold? Dry or damp? Once the child holds that image in her head, stopping to decode the words slither and chameleon will not interrupt the flow of the story. Having students develop imagery, engages them in the plot. It connects the story to their own experience and grounds them in the action. Most important, it captures their imagination and compels them to continue reading. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words; when it comes to students who are learning to read, a picture delivers a thousand words.

Classroom Coaches learn this, and many more strategies to help Austin’s students become stronger readers. Join hundreds who are using these skills in Austin classrooms, and then share the knowledge with all of the children in your life. Volunteer now at  or call us at 512-637-0900 to get involved.