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mental imagery

The Best Books for Teaching Mental Images

Debbie Miller, Reading, Reading with Meaning

I love to use picture books for teaching mental images in my elementary classroom. Creating a mental image or visualizing is an important comprehension skill for all readers. We want students to be able to picture what’s happening or make a movie in their mind to help increase their understanding of what they are reading.  

I use mentor texts when I am teaching mental image skills. When we are working on visualizing – I do not show the illustrations to my students when I read the book. I often hide the cover of a book by putting it in a file folder and then don’t show the pictures as I’m reading. While I’m reading students are closing their eyes and creating their own images. I will often have them stop and sketch their image on a sticky note to see how it changes throughout the story.  

They do love to see the pictures so I will often re-read the story at a later time and let them see the illustrations. It’s fun for them to see if their mental images match with the book’s pictures.

Here is a list of 3 of my favorite books for teaching mental images…

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The Napping House

Photo of the cover of the book - The Napping House

The Napping House by Audrey Wood is a one of the books for teaching mental images that I use when we start our visualizing unit.  This is a great book to use to stop at various points to have kids share or sketch their mental images because they will change throughout the book.

The book starts with a house where everyone is sleeping.  The granny is sleeping in her bed and as the story goes on a child joins her and then a dog and so on until the bed breaks at the end!

When I use this book for teaching mental images, I give students four sticky notes and then pick four points to stop in the book. I then send them to sketch their current image and at the end we do a gallery walk and see how their mental image has changed over time.

The Salamander Room

Photo of the cover of the book The Salamander Room for teaching mental images

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is another one of my favorite books for teaching mental images.  This book is also great to use and stop at various points for students to see how their image changes over time.

In The Salamander Room, a boy named Brian finds a salamander and decides to bring him home with him. Brian’s mom then inquires about where this salamander is going to sleep. Brian tells a very detailed description of all of the things he’ll bring into his room for the salamander – tree stumps for him to climb, wet leaves for him to play with, etc.  He then adds in other animals to keep the salamander company/feed him and his room turns into a forest oasis! 

I use this book like I do The Napping House. Students again will stop at a few specific points and sketch or share their mental image.  We then discuss how and why their mental image changes throughout the story and how it helps them understand the story.

Pigsty

Photo of cover of Mental Images book - Pigsty with photo of kid and 2 pigs.

Pigsty by Mark Teague is a hilarious and fun book to use for teaching mental images. When we read this book in class, we do come up with mental images throughout the book, but we aren’t sketching as we go. For this one, I ask students to come up with their most vivid mental image to record at the end.

In the story Pigsty, Wendell’s room is a big mess and his mother is after him to clean it. She told him it was turning into a “pigsty.” When Wendell went up to his room to clean, he found an actual pig on his bed. As the story continues, more pigs join and also help him create more of a mess.  Wendell then becomes upset when they start to ruin some of his things and decides it’s time to finally clean. The pigs helped him clean, but then decided they were on their way because his room was too clean for their liking. 

When I use this book for teaching mental images, I again do not show the pictures.  Students are coming up with their own visualizations.  At the very end, I ask students to draw their strongest, most vivid mental image and write a sentence describing it.  We then do a gallery walk so the students can see what mental image the other students picked.

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