When we ask students to visualize while they’re reading, most think in terms of concrete things we can literally see in our mind’s eye. However, we need to teach students that visualization goes beyond the sense of sight and includes all five senses.
When describing an outdoor setting, an author might reference the spiky texture of the grass (sense of touch) or the aroma of a neighboring campfire (sense of smell) or the silencing sound of racing cars and blaring horns of nearby traffic (sense of hearing). When we “see” with all five senses, the picture in the reader’s mind becomes clearer. This then makes comprehension stronger.
Let’s just focus on the sense of hearing for this lesson idea. For primary readers, start first by teaching students about onomatopoeia words (e.g., ZAP! BOOM! POP!). Popular picture books that use this figurative language technique repeatedly include:
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin
Night Noises, Mem Fox
Rattletrap Car, Phyllis Root
Then move to a more subtle use of sounds used within reading texts. Authors may mention a character lighting a match or a dripping faucet or the clinking of glasses during a toast. Readers need to pull on their background knowledge and “hear” those noises in their minds. Students are connecting a sound they are familiar with (from their background knowledge) with this new text. They are filling in the gaps and painting a more clear picture. It’s not just about seeing the action but hearing it too.
To bring sounds into your reading classroom, check out these two free sound effect sites with oodles of files ranging from door creaks to rainstorms to snoring.
Beyond these two websites, you could download the AudioMicro app on your iPhone to have hundreds of sounds at your fingertips. What a fun way to marry digital technology and reading comprehension!