6 Magic Words!
The use of visualization is not only helpful in calmative coping strategy like the one Sarah just posted. My students and I use it everyday in the classroom. It helps with reading comprehension, math problems, and science experiments.
What does that make you picture?
Ask that question after reading the beginning of a story and you will engage your students’ brains in brand new ways. If they hadn’t been listening while you read, they will be now (hopefully). And if they were listening, now they are creating an entire world in their minds through which to view the events of the story. When you add a visual layer to linguistic content you enable your students to interact with the material more deeply. So is it really magic?
No. You have to train your students and give them the tools to do this. Here’s how you start. Any good visualization starts with the “what,” the subject of the action. It doesn’t matter what it is (a person, animal, toy, place); what matters is establishing what the most important thing in the story is. Once you have the subject identified, flesh it out a bit. Add some details. What size is it? What color is it? What shape is it? Once you’ve got a good picture for the subject, add the action in. What is it doing? How is it doing it? While you’re at it add in some scenery. Where do you see this happening? What do you see in the background? Lastly, add any important objects.
This all happens through careful questioning. Start with the 6 magic words (What does that make you picture?). From there ask questions that help the students build a picture of what is going on. As students build a picture of what is happening they are able to interact with the content at a much deeper level. Recall becomes easier. Inferences become more manageable. Predictions become more precise.
When you use this technique with math problems it makes decision-making easier and it deepens the understanding of core concepts. As students progress in mathematical complexity they move from the concrete to the abstract (think of it like moving from counting blocks to counting fingers to counting in your head). Having the ability to visualize a math problem helps students with this transition. Having a set of images to use that matches the series of events in the math problem provides a slightly more concrete abstract tool.
This may all sound really complicated, but it all comes down to asking the right questions. Any time you ask a student to imagine something you are encouraging them to visualize it. Anytime you push for more details and have your students add to, take away from, or change their pictures you are strengthening this ability. Trust me, it pays off.
Up Next: My developing thoughts on… Impatience!