Imagine That! Make a Picture In Your Mind!

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SWBAT use information gained from words in print to demonstrate understanding of its setting.

Big Idea

How Does Imaging Help Us Read?


  • In A Nutshell* by Joseph Anthony
  • Imaging/Visualizing Strategy poster (I'll be adding to this chart throughout my imaging/visualizing unit)
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: literature, imaging**, setting, plot
  • whiteboard set up
  • nutshell organizer (2 for each student)
  • pencils only - not crayons (My focus is that the kids create simple images with detail and not on the colors)


*I chose this book because it has GREAT opportunities for imaging. The kids really enjoyed thinking about how the plant went through the cycle of life and the images of the house, kids, and tree growing old spurred some nice comments about about the passage of time. We are studying plants in science, so it's a nice tie-in as well. The text is mid-2nd grade, although I chose to read it aloud because the language is simple, yet beautiful. 

 ** "Imaging" is the term that my district uses for "visualizing". In order to stay true to the district expectations, I'll continue to use this verbage. Visualizing is a critical skill for 2nd graders because they need to 'go deeper' in the text. By visualizing as they read, they are creating and tweaking images in their minds as they actively read. This kind of 'close reading', forming images using text, verifying and changing those images, and ultimately comparing their images to the author, creates critical readers and deepens comprehension.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Writing and Reading Word Wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Bring students to a common starting point

  • "I brought a literature book today that has great words to help us use imaging. When we can make a picture or movie in our heads as we read, we are active readers."
  • "We are going to think about what the setting and plot look like in the story.  Read the title.
  • “Take a moment to imagine what you think the cover looks like?  Do you want to see the cover of the book?”  Show the cover.
  • Compare what they imagined to what is really on the cover. "Were you wrong?  No, you just had a different image.  Did it make you think of other stories or summertime or experiences?"


I am working on imaging/visualizing throughout this unit by helping students realize that this powerful reading strategy can really deepen comprehension. Take a look at some of my other lessons, utilizing the 'Imaging/Visualizing' poster mentioned in the materials section:  Pictures in the Snow-ImagingPicture This-Lost and Found on a Mountain, Oh No! Duck for President-Imagine That!, Extend Your World, and Imagine What An Inchworm Would Say.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

Set the purpose

  • "Today we'll be using imaging to understand the story."
  • "We are going to create a book to show how the setting changes and plot develops."


Review the concepts

  • Imaging helps us in many ways. Lets' review our chart:
    • Imaging helps us before, during, and after reading. 
    • Images help us use voice and read with expression
    • Images help us retell the story.
    • Images are unique - they help us describe the sense and feelings.
  • "Today we'll add .. Images help us describe the setting."



  • "This book is a great story of a nut and how it grows and changes - the plot is the growth of a tree and change.  I'm going to read and show you how we can imagine what happens."
  • Read the first page, but don't show the picture to the kids. I imagine a giant tree with nuts hanging and dropping on the ground. I know that because I've seen trees like this in the fall. I know squirrels pick up the nuts from the ground."  Sketch your image on the board and then compare to the book illustration that you show the kids.
  • "My image is a little different because the trees I've seen are taller and have less leaves. But that's ok - it's important that I have the details from the book - nuts, tree, leaves, dropping - but it doesn't have to look exactly the same."


Guided Practice

  • "Help me with the next image.  Read the page without showing the illustration.... What can I imagine?"  This is how I explained the circle for the seed and the lines for soil. That will keep all the images in the same place so it makes a better book.
  • Take ideas and draw on the board (leaving out a detail)  "Let's go back to the text again - did I get all of the details?" (Add what you left out).  "Let's check the illustration - I have the details, even though it looks different, it helps me imagine the scene and understand the story better."
  • Here is our discussion about creating images and how the whiteboard looked after the practice.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Set the purpose

  • "Now it's your turn to image/visualize the story. You know what happens to trees, but the author has some great details for you to read that will make some good images in your mind. I'll stop every few pages and give you time to draw a new image on the next square."
  • "We are looking at the plot of the story - what is happening to the tree? to the house? to the family? to the seed?"


The flavor of this Standard is that students use text and illustrations to understand better. (RL.2.7) Give them time to digest the words and emphasize the beauty of the simple text. Too often, kids read to find an answer - there are no 'answers' here, just beautiful text that creates images in their minds. This activity allows them to step away from writing and multiple choice questions to some 'right brain' work. Allow them to see that the author and illustrator have a purpose - helping us step into another world with the text and illustrations.


Read and give students time to draw

  • * Read a few pages showing the pictures and then stop and read without showing the picture. Let students draw and reread as needed to focus on details.
  • Kids should NUMBER the images for the project.
  • Remind kids that they should create extra images with background knowledge. They can draw a squirrel that eats the nuts or a swing set. Imaging and visualizing includes adding 'what you know'.
  • Don't be afraid to veer off and talk about the tree growing and changing or the passage of time. These are great discussions, as long as you come back to the task.
  • Here are the images that my students created:  student's image 1, and student's image 2.


* Instead of telling you exactly which pages to stop on, please take a few moments to decide what makes sense for you and your class. There are 8 squares for the kids to draw on, although you don't have to use all of them. You may find the kids are very interested in certain illustrations (such as the broken down house or tire swing) that they have a connection to.  Those are the opportunities for the best images.

Show What You Know

15 minutes

Explain the project

  • "Now that we have 8 great images, let's make a book. Cut the squares apart, put them in order and staple them into a book."


Complete the project

  • Kids should cut and line up the lines/dots to make a flip book. They can staple them.
  • As they finish, invite the kids to 'turn and talk' about their books. Compare with a friend. "Are the images the same? Why are they different?  Did you have different sets of background knowledge? Is one 'right' or wrong'?"
  • Remind kids that our images are unique and personal - they are based on what we know, why we've seen, what we have experienced.
  • Invite kids to chat with a friend once more to retell the story based on the images. Here's one of my students retelling the story with images.
  • "Will you be able to use this strategy in our next story?"
  • Here is a sample of my kids' projects.


Scaffolding up or down  You could scaffold this lesson for students of all ability levels. If you're reading for your students, they should be able to create images, even if their drawing ability is not the best. It was nice to be able to step away from text and writing to use some imaging to improve comprehension.