EDU 5529 Teaching Reading Strategies

Reflection 3

Visualizing and Inferring

Compare the following two descriptions both describing today, the way I visualize it out my window, while I write this reflection.

It was cloudy today.  There was no sun in the sky.  The air was cold and I wore a scarf and winter jacket. My eyes and nose started to run as I walked outside.

It was a cloudy day, the kind of day that leaves you wondering if there is any color or only shades of grey.  There was no sun to be found. In fact, it had been so long since I had seen the sun that the lingering warmth of its rays had long since left my memory.  As I bundled up, into my absurdly puffy coat, with a thick and itchy woolen scarf wrapped clear around my head and neck up to my nose, I headed out to brave the cold. The chill in the air stung sharply.  My eyes began to water and my nose started to run like the leaky kitchen faucet at Grandma’s house.

Each of the previous descriptions are telling the same story, however, one offers the reader vastly different visual detail. Do you think the picture formed in the readers mind is different from one description to the other?  By allowing the reader to imagine a setting where each piece is richly detailed through the story, the reader is able to better visualize structure and enhance a clearer comprehension of text.  In our text Strategies That Work by, Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudis, they refer to visualization as “Movies in the Mind.” By encouraging students to use their minds to visualize text as a “personal-movie”, a foundation is laid to better support reading comprehension.

Activation of personal connections and background knowledge can also support comprehension of the text.  “Good writers, like E.B. White, act like old-time movie projectionist who crank up the projector with their vivid words and then sit back as the reel runs unfettered to the viewer.” (Harvey, 2000, p. 101)  Each student develops a personal “movie” in his or her mind and yet the context and main events will be the same.  I think of this much like a recipe for baking cookies; there are measured ingredients: times to bake, and the basic same outcome but no one cookie will be exactly the same as the next.  By encouraging personal schema to be an active part of visualization students are opened-up to interpretation and inferring.  These personal connections will only enhance a student’s ability to comprehend and retain important information, details, themes, etc. of text.

One strategy that was explained for its benefits for supporting visualization is to have students listen to a compelling piece of writing that is rich with visual imagery. Have students point out the active verbs and visually supportive nouns that help to paint pictures in their mind; then upon a second reading ask the students to listen to what makes the writing “come alive” for them.  By reading it again the students can think about their senses and ask themselves, what do I see? Feel? Smell? Touch? Hear? By involving their five senses students begin to read text with a more visceral purpose, learning to absorb the meaning and the emotion behind the words as comprehension is increased.  Additionally, the book stresses the necessity to teach kids  at young age, Kindergarten, how to infer feelings.  Not only is this an extremely helpful tool for students socially but increased comprehension is a result when students can support their own emotional connection to text they read.  As Harvey and Goudis point out, “Inferring is the bedrock of comprehension, not only in reading.” (Harvey, 2000, p. 105) Learning not only to read text but to “read” people’s emotions in social settings is a gift for student success in life.

This is demonstrated to small children by exploring illustrated faces and the emotions they represent.  Having students start to develop the perceived emotions on cue card is just one way to make an emotional connection to text.  As students mature, and their level of inferential understanding grows, the need to examine text for textual clues to support inferred themes and big ideas becomes a focus.  Students move past inferring based solely on emotion and are required to purposefully read with an “investigative eye” for clues that represent bigger ideas in the story.  Theme boards can help students take their emotional and textual inferences and put them together to reinforce connections and articulate themes in a story.  By repeatedly observing with students themes and connections to these themes students can start to see common patterns that thematic writing shares.

Inferring with textbooks is not as easily developed.  Students are less emotionally connected to the text and often there is a massive amount of information to sift through.  Harvey and Goudis offer an important strategy that supports student comprehending the difference between fact and opinion.  Facts are understood as something students can see and observe while opinions are inferences or interpretations.  This could be demonstrated in an I-chart repeatedly as a student progresses through school.  By starting with older elementary students, this tool could be one easily accessed as textbooks become more heavily relied upon for informational gathering in later school years.

Both visualization and inference are important and necessary components for successful comprehension for students at any age. Visualization breathes life into a story and supports emotional connections to text; inferring can help students read for clues to support their own opinions and understanding of themes and big ideas.   If developed, practiced, and mastered at a young age these tools can not only help support reading comprehension, but could be a tool to help students reflect and understand better social situations, too.

My personal visualization of the two descriptions from the beginning of this reflection:

How did you see them?

Works Cited

Harvey, S. A. (2000). Strategies That Work. Portland: Stenhouse Publishers.