Fluid Visualization vs. Single-Frame Imaging

A while back I sat with a group of boys for a guided reading lesson. The short selection they were reading described the process of cow skins being made into leather goods. After the reading, I asked them to explain what they read about.

Paul stated, “This was about colors and patterns.”

“So, what did you visualize as you were reading this whole selection?” I questioned.

“I saw different colors and patterns.” He replied.

When words on the page do not become comprehensible visual images in the mind, students may try to remember specific words or phrases from the text and repeat them.

There are a few reasons that a student may only cling to a particular word or phrase when giving a response: (Besides the fact that they may have gotten away with  regurgitating a phrase straight from the text as an answer in the past.)

  1. The decoding was too challenging for them to gain meaning.
  2. The reader was looking at the words but their mind wandered off. (As I often do if I’m reading a novel late at night.)
  3. A language issue could be a factor. Earlier, I discussed only visualizing two restaurants when I read a sentence in Spanish. My mind clung to the few words I understood. Sometimes this happens to our students if they are mentally translating as they read.

In Paul’s case, he was doing single-frame imaging. Visualization has often been referred to as a movie in your mind. I’d take the analogy a step-further, because it truly is: Words spark images in our mind. Sometimes you visualize a word and you see it as one single frame. As you are reading volumes of words per minute, the still images should come together to create fluid moving pictures. Fluidity of imaging is the goal, and a sign of true comprehension.

Imagine the contrast between a single-frame image and the continuous motion of a movie. Many of our kids only have single-frame images as they read, and our goal is for them to have fluidity of imaging.

As for Paul; he should’ve visualized an entire process that began with cow skins and ended with leather goods. However, he clung to “colors and patterns.” Single-frame imaging is common with struggling readers who might only pick up a few single items in a selection.   I will give suggestions on improving this in future posts.  Try to listen to your student’s responses and gather what type of visualizing is happening. Single Images or Fluid pictures? From there, you can begin helping them move into good comprehensible visualization.


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