Monday, August 20, 2012

Visualizing and Reading Comprehension Pt 5


I have been reading "Advetures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6. by Terry Thompson. Chapter seven "In the Mind's Eye: Making Mental Images and Inferring" is a particularly interesting chapter and well worth reading, particularly if you want to have a slightly different take on visualisation and comprehension.

The book is written in an easy to read and conversational style with lots of good teaching tips and practical ideas. The author says, "Comics can help by serving as a tangible model of the visualisation that good readers create in their heads as they read. Using examples from graphica, we can mirror mental images and display them right there on the page in front of our students, allowing them to make real connection with what we mean when we say "make a picture in your head." Whether you call it visualisation or creating mental images, the important thing to remember is that students must learn to use their imaginations to bring texts to life." (page 73-74).

He goes on to say that visualisation is not like a static picture or photograph, it changes and becomes more like a movie as the story unfolds. It incorporates movement, sounds, smells, taste, touch, and feelings. The mental images integrate your past experience and with perceived elements within the story. Inferences are formed when the missing details are filled in by the imagination. Thus, inferences are made by combining the new to the known.

How can graphics help children visualise? It can demonstrate the artist's imagination in various ways by using the graphics conventions such as speech bubbles, narration boxes, panels, gutters, text, etc. to encapsulate action, characterisation, mood, and emotion. For example, mood may be expressed through different variations of colour, line, perspective, font size and style. Children can be encouraged to use their inferencing skills to explore character traits. In the graphics they are able to gain clues as to the mental states of the characters through the depiction of their actions, what they say in speech bubbles, and by the expressions on their faces.

"Because comics represent characters visually, they help the reader in identifying and getting to know them. ..., this can help readers monitor who's speaking and how each character works into the story line. This visual connection to the players in the text frees readers up so they can practice attending to the characters and analyse the important role their presence plays during reading."(page 74).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Visualizing and Reading Comprehension Pt4

The ability to decode words accurately is essential but not sufficient for efficient reading and comprehension. Most children, who decode well while reading, comprehend most of what they read. However, there are many children who do not understand what they are reading even though they appear to be reading fluently. Often these children are not detected in the early years of schooling because they generally sound like they are reading beautifully. It is not until the latter years of primary (or elementary school) when they are expected to read for understanding that they appear to be having problems with reading comprehension.   

One of the problems is that these children do not normally connect emotionally with what they read. Emotions are usually associated with mental imagery. For example, the events of 9/11 were emotionally charged and the images of the planes crashing into the twin towers have been firmly etched into our long-term memories. It is difficult to read or talk about these events without replaying those horrific scenes in the 'mind's eye'. These images are vivid because they are emotionally charged and are often referred to as flash bulb memories. Not all mental images are as emotionally charged as this example but often readers make the comment that the book seemed to 'come alive'. What they are really saying is that they became emotionally involved with the book and the imagined scenes seemed to play like a movie. This is because mental imagery facilitates emotional associations and links reading to life experiences. 

Watch this YouTube video to find out more about the role of mental imagery and reading.

Thus, the degree of involvement, enjoyment, and interest in reading are enhanced by the generation of images. 

To find out more about mental imagery read 'Dual Coding Theory and Education' at