This all-important strategy is used in at least two places in the real world – sports and medicine. Coaches advise players to picture themselves hitting the home run or scoring the touchdown before the game even begins. Doctors often advise their cancer patients who are taking chemotherapy to visualize the chemotherapy medicine knocking out the cancer cells in the body.
Visualization also works for your students and for you. Visualize when you were young and you went outside and played. Remember that you saw yourself as someone else and your friend as another person. The tree in your yard was not a tree, but your house. In other words, you imagined. One reason that some of today’s students have a difficult time comprehending what they read is because in this world of vivid visuals found on computer screens and in video games, students have had little opportunity to use their imaginations. And yet if there are no pictures in a novel, good readers must visualize the action in the story. Otherwise, there is little or no comprehension. This strategy provides opportunities for students to use their imaginations to facilitate understanding across the curriculum.
Visualize every one of your students experiencing success this year. This is the first step toward ensuring that it happens!
What The Research Says
When the brain imagines, it releases endorphins that increase the size of the brain by growing new dendrites and speeds communication within and between brain cells (Marsh, 2013).
When important events in history are too abstract to remember, visual imagery facilitates the retention of those events (Melber & Hunter, 2010).
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps drawing and visualization can help science students enhance their learning potential” (National Science Teachers Association [NSTA]. 2006, p.20).
Make It Happen
- As students read a novel or content-area passage independently, teach them how to visualize the scenes or events using each of their senses. Have them answer the following question: What do you see, hear, feel, touch, and taste as you visualize the passage you are reading?
- Have students work individually or in groups to create visual images that link a word to its definition or as in social studies, a state to its capital. The more absurd the visual image, the easier it is for the brain to remember the connection. For example, to remember that the capital of Minnesota is St. Paul, have students visualize a saint sipping on a little bitty soda (Tate, 2012).
- Have students mentally transport themselves into a specific period of history being studied, such as the Civil War or the French Revolution, and visualize themselves in that time period. Have them ask and answer the following questions: What do you see? How are you dressed? What’s going on around you? These images will help to make history more relevant and memorable.
For more examples of instructional activities using visualization and grounded imagery, consult the 3rd edition of my best-selling book, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.