Sunday, June 24, 2012

Visualizing and the Common Core

Last Tuesday, I presented a workshop called "Reading Strategies and the Common Core". (I'll be doing it again at KSRA in October if you are interested in seeing it.) We had a great conversation about how reading strategy instruction fits in with the content standards of the Common Core.

Visualizing is not mentioned in the standards. However, teaching about visualizing fits pretty neatly within several standards. (I'll be referring to the general K-5 standards below, not the grade-specific ones.)

Key Ideas and Details, 1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from text.

Visualizing is a kind of inferring. When readers visualize, they fill in missing details with their own background knowledge. It can be fun to talk with readers about how they visualized a sentence or paragraph, and find out which words or phrases led them to create the pictures they built.

The assessment page below can help you to see how readers are (or are not) making inferences as they read.

Key Ideas and Details, 3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

At first, it may be hard to see how visualizing fits in here. But this standard requires readers to track ideas within a text. Tracking requires mental energy! The concentration and stamina that students build from trying to create mental images from text will help them to track more abstract ideas later. On a more concrete level, visualizing events from a text helps readers to understand and process what happens.

Craft and Structure, 4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

As teachers begin teaching figurative language, often they focus on the identification--Can you find a simile? A metaphor? But the new standards point heavily toward interpretation. What does this simile mean? How does the author develop an idea by comparing these items? What is the author trying to tell us with this personification?

This is where visualizing becomes important.  Consider the poem "The Railway Train" by Emily Dickinson:

I like to see it lap the miles, 
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;

Visualizing the train as it moves across the countryside is the sure way to understand how the personification builds the author's main ideas. (Side note--Does anyone else visualize the Island of Sodor with this poem? One more sign that raising two sons will irrevocably change the brain!)

As you can see, visualizing is one reading strategy that will still be important to readers as we transition to the Common Core.

Update August 2014: Here are some additional Visualizing Resources from my TpT store.


  1. I used your lesson today is class. It was great! Thanks so much for posting this...


  2. Thank You! You help me see some of the standard more clearly!