Teaching children to make a mental image as they read is a critical step in developing fluent readers. Debbie Diller says that "when readers create mental images, they engage in text in ways that make it personable and memorable to them alone" (from Reading With Meaning). Children use all five senses to make a vivid picture in their minds of what they are reading. Sometimes when we are teaching young children to read, we get so caught up on the accuracy of reading - we can easily forget that the reason we read is to enjoy what we are reading and understand what we read! If we spend so much time on the mechanics of reading, it could burn a child out to reading. Sad. :(
So, we had our first lesson in imagery today using a poem by Jill Egglton. I love using her poems because the language is easy for children to understand, they often rhyme, and they use many high frequency words. I saw a friend do this in her classroom and thought it was a really great idea. I started the lesson by connecting to a book that we had read earlier this week (Plaidypus Lost -- more on that tomorrow!). Before I read that book, I asked them to picture something that they had lost. I told them when they were doing that they were creating mental images. I read the poem, "Ding-A-Ling" to the children - they love this poem, and it's so easy for them to picture the man in the poem. I read the poem 2-3 times, and asked the children to close their eyes and make a mental image after each time I read it. I then asked them to create a picture of the man that was in the poem.
We later discussed the things that were similar in our pictures (the hair, the nose, and the bells) and what was different. The children came to the conclusion that the pictures were different because they all created their own mental images!
Here is a portion of Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning book if you would like to read more about mental images and comprehension.