Vivid Mental Images
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will listen to an explanation of the concept of vivid mental images or mind pictures. They'll use the vivid mental image papers to draw events in the story. Students will write captions or written explanations to accompany their pictures. The pictures will be arranged sequentially in a loose-leaf notebook which will be added eventually to the class library. The term "vivid mental image" comes from Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning, a wonderful resource about reading comprehension for teachers of grades 1-2.
- Listen to explanation of "vivid mental image" and look at example.
- Generate a list of possible mental images after listening to chapter one.
- Create mental images while listening to the story.
- Write explanations to go with their mental images.
- Combine the pages into a notebook for their class library.
- A copy of The Tale of Despereaux
- Chart paper and marker
- Completed Vivid Mental Image as example
- 50+ copies of Vivid Mental Image (PDF), three-hole punched
- Pencils and crayons
- One-inch three-ring binder
Set Up and Prepare
- Read chapter one of The Tale of Despereaux to class before beginning this activity.
- Draw a picture as an example of a vivid mental image from chapter one to show students. You might also prepare this for the overhead projector.
- Set up chart paper with the title "Our Vivid Mental Images from The Tale of Despereaux."
- Make many copies of Vivid Mental Image (PDF) paper and punch holes in papers. Put them in a central location so students can help themselves to copies as needed.
- Set up notebook with title on cover "Our Vivid Mental Images from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, Second Grade, Winter 2006."
Read chapter one of The Tale of Despereaux.
Possible questions to ask might include:
- What pictures did you see in your mind?
- What do you think that looks like?
- Now can you picture that?
- What image pops into your head when you hear that?
- When I read that I think of this picture...What do you think of?
- Can you picture that from (name of character)'s perspective?
Introduce the idea of the concept of vivid mental image or clear mind picture. Tell the class that good readers make pictures, even films, in their minds as they read.
Review the idea of vivid mental image as a technique used by effective readers. Explain that as you read, students will be listening and transferring their mental images onto paper and writing short captions to go with them.
Show your example to the class. Help the students generate a list of topics for vivid mental images from chapter one. List them on chart paper. Have students select an image from the list. Ask them to pick an image that is especially clear to them.
Make sure everyone has a paper, pencil, and crayons before starting to read chapter two. Observe the "no walking, no talking" rule while you're reading aloud.
At the end of chapter two ask for a couple of images from that chapter and record them. Ask for a volunteer or two to share their images.
Note: Some teachers think that second graders are not capable of multitasking during a read-aloud and listen less well if asked to draw and write while their teacher reads. I have found the opposite to be true. My students actually listen better when they draw while I'm reading, as long as what they're doing is directly related to the story.
Day 3 and following
Continue as Day 2. Allow a few minutes each day to add to the list of topics and select topics. Then read, stopping frequently to discuss.
- Occasionally sketch simple line drawings, diagrams, maps, etc., to illustrate what is happening in the story.
- At the end of reading time, allow a couple of students to share what they have drawn and written.
- Hold up examples of quality work to show the class what you want.
Supporting All Learners
Following the story line and understanding details in a chapter book can be challenging for some second grade students. One suggestion is to have an audio cassette or CD of the book available at a listening station or for students to check out and listen to at home. If you have the story set up at a listening station it ought to be for review of previously read chapters, not for listening ahead. There are commercially made audio versions of The Tale of Despereaux or you can make your own.
More capable readers will get the concept of making pictures in their mind right away. They may already be making mind pictures without even knowing it. You might ask one or two more fluent readers to share with the class how they make pictures in their minds as they read other books.
Another idea for more capable readers is to put them in charge of the notebook. It will be their jobs to check the notebook daily and make sure that students are adding pages in sequence, following the story.
"Sneak Reading" - I announce my read-aloud book in my weekly newsletter so parents will know what their children are listening to at school. I also ask parents not to check out or buy copies of my read-aloud book because I want all the students to experience the book together. It makes for more exciting listening if one doesn't already know what's going to happen. Common experiences like read-aloud books also strengthen bonds among group members and build community. I encourage every other kind of reading, including reading other books by the same author, but discourage "sneak reading."
- Read clearly and expressively?
- Ask thoughtful questions during the read-aloud?
- Demonstrate effectively how to make a mental image?
- Review the process frequently in the beginning?
- Take time to recognize high quality work?
- Delegate the responsibility of organizing the notebook to students?
- Have a daily time for sharing?
- Listening to the read-aloud?
- Asking and answering questions?
- Remembering what was read?
- Identifying key parts of the story to illustrate?
- Drawing pictures with plenty of detail?
- Using complete sentences as they explain their pictures in writing?
- Completing the work they started in a reasonable amount of time?
- Putting their pages into the notebook in the proper sequence?
Note: I don't assess students in the beginning, but rather give them a chance to grow and improve. I do hold up examples of high quality work to show them what is possible and what I expect. Since I save their work in a notebook I'm able to observe their skill increase over time.