What is Visualizing and Verbalizing?
Nanci Bell, an expert in the treatment of language and literacy disorders developed the Visualizing and Verbalizing Program.
Why would someone choose to use Visualizing and Verbalizing to help a child improve their reading comprehension?
Many readers can read words and have a developed vocabulary, yet still, struggle to comprehend sentences or paragraphs.
Visualizing and Verbalizing teaches students to build pictures in their minds as they listen to or read text. This program is helpful for those who struggle to understand spoken/written language.
The main goal is for students to develop the ability to visualize the main idea or the overall picture. This is called Concept Imagery,
As Albert Einstein said, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.”
Below are some signs that an individual has difficulty processing language and would likely benefit from learning about concept imagery:
- No response to verbal explanations
- Trouble understanding jokes
- asks questions repeatedly that have already been answered
- Misses the main ideas from TV shows or has trouble guessing what might happen, only retaining a few details
- Difficulty understanding cause and effect
- Trouble paying attention during lectures or conversations
- Challenges with remembering or following verbal directions
- Difficulty making sense when talking
- Does not express self often, seems quiet much of the time
- Can read words fluently but has trouble comprehending what he/she reads
It is important to know that when reading, the information feels abstract to readers who have trouble processing language.
Abstract information can be very difficult to understand, so the text goes “in one ear and out the other.”
When creating mental images of the text, the reader draws from their own experiences and knowledge (text-to-self connections). This helps the abstract text become meaningful and concrete.
This also makes it easier to process the information, recall it later, and put the information into one’s own words.
Additionally, when asked inferential questions about the text (e.g., what do you think will happen next), the reader can refer to their mental image. This will help facilitate their ability to answer these types of questions.
How does the Visualizing & Verbalizing program work?
In Visualizing and Verbalizing, readers are first taught to describe real pictures presented in front of them.
Once students learn to describe real pictures, they begin describing objects they have seen in their own life.
The teacher asks the students several probing questions to help them describe familiar or personal objects in vivid detail.
Students describe objects that are not directly in front of them (e.g., their house, a pet, a piece of jewelry, etc.).
Once students can accurately describe familiar or personal objects, they learn to create mental images of simple sentences, paragraphs, and eventually the whole text.
The instructor guides the reader to process language visually, and express their images verbally, by asking probing questions about what they imagine from the text.
Parents and teachers can also use technology (images/video) and real objects to help a student understand what the text is referring to.
Visualizing and Verbalizing stimulates the right and left side of the brain. According to research, both sides of the brain need to be stimulated and engaged in order to make sense of reading.
You can find more specific instructions in the Visualizing and Verbalizing manual by Nanci Bell.
While the manual is somewhat pricey, you can find a used version of the manual for a more affordable rate.
The Visualizing and Verbalizing manual provides the theory and specific steps to develop the ability to create images from language.
It describes the important questioning techniques to help students visualize language and verbalize what they have imagined.
This imagery-language connection is essential for oral and written language comprehension, as well as critical thinking.
Here is some additional information about using reading comprehension strategies with children.
Keep in mind that every child is different. Some respond to several strategies, others respond to a few, while others may not respond to any of the strategies you try.
If your child is struggling with reading comprehension or acquiring other academic skills, despite consistent practice and guidance, talk to your child’s school and/or doctor.
They should be able to refer you to the appropriate professionals to determine what might be interfering with your child’s progress and what additional strategies might help.
Remember to always stay calm when working with a child or student, even if you think they should be getting something that they are not getting.
Keep practice sessions short (e.g., 2 to 10 minutes for younger children or children who get easily frustrated and 10 to 15 minutes for older children or children who can work for longer periods without frustration), unless the child is eager to keep going.
You can do a few short sessions a day with some fun breaks built-in.
Visualizing and Verbalizing Video Clip
Slide Show/Narrated Presentation of Article
You also may wish to review the following reading programs, geared toward younger students, and developed from research-based practices:
- The Reading Head Start Program
- The Children Learning Reading Program
- Reading with TLC
- Reading Eggs (Online/Interactive)
- Pride Reading Program (Orton Gillingham)
Education and Behavior – Keeping Us On The Same Page!Recommended Books by Nanci Bell
Rachel Wise is the author and founder of Education and Behavior. Rachel created Education and Behavior in 2014 for adults to have an easy way to access research-based information to support children in the areas of learning, behavior, and social-emotional development. As a survivor of abuse, neglect, and bullying, Rachel slipped through the cracks of her school and community. Education and Behavior hopes to play a role in preventing that from happening to other children. Rachel is also the author of Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
“Children do best when there is consistency within and across settings (i.e., home, school, community). Education and Behavior allows us to maintain that consistency.”