Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

Visualizing : New Tricks to Try in the Classroom


Not all students visualize naturally.  This is surprising for me since I have fainted three times in my life from over visualizing.

Anyway…I recently resubscribed to  the International Literacy Association (ILA) and to The Reading Teacher. A subscription that expired as I switched jobs a few years ago but recently I decided that it was important enough for me to keep up with the latest and greatest in literacy.

The latest publication of Literacy Today (a magazine included with the subscription) focuses on Critical Literacy in a Digital World.

This article caught my attention: Teaching Visualizing to Improve Comprehension THE POWER OF THE PICTURE By Brooke MacKenzie

Here are some tips on teaching visualizing from the article 

  1. Introduce visualizing during a Read Aloud
  2. Model visualizing, using sentence frames:  “I see…,” “I hear…,” I smell…,” “I imagine…,” and “When I read this word/ sentence/paragraph, I visualize….”
  3. Suggested book: The Black Book of Colors  – I have also used the Salamander Room. Several book choices for visualizing can be found through a simple Google search.
  4. It is important to ask: Which words in the text helped you create the picture in your mind?  How does this picture help you to better understand the story? – These questions need to be asked often throughout the year not just during visualizing lessons.
  5. Students who struggle might need to reduce their visualizing to the sentence level and then build to paragraphs.
  6. Make sure that high quality visualizing examples are provided to students.
  7. Another way to visualize is from large details (the story elements) to smaller details.
  8. Students might benefit from closing their eyes to visualize before they draw.
  9. Materials for visualizing can be a page in a journal or as small as a post it note.

Tech Idea

Tell a story through GIFS!  Open a Google Doc – have students use a sequence of GIFS to summarize and put images to their visualization.

Students could create a Google Drawing to represent their visualization. (Students could also use Google Keep.)

To Conclude…

Visualization is an important reading comprehension strategy. One that should be visited often. Hopefully, you will find something new to try from this post.

How do you teach visualizing?

Love Coach Clark


Leveled Literacy Intervention: When to Jump on Board and When to Get Off the Bus!

It’s approaching the half-way point in my summer vacation and yes, I should be relaxing but, I hear questions about literacy whenever I am.  I don’t like confusion so I will clear this matter up today. Here is my take on Levelled Literacy Intervention. By the way,  I assume that you are an educator reading this. If you need to go into greater depth, please visit this link.

What is Leveled Literacy Intervention?

Here is the definition from the website.

“The Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) is an intensive, small-group, supplementary literacy intervention for students who find reading and writing difficult. The goal of LLI is to lift the literacy achievement of students who are not achieving grade-level expectations in reading.”

Is LLI for the Whole Class?

No. It is for students who struggle and more specifically,” for students who find reading and writing difficult.” When we see the word, intervention attached to anything else in life, we know it is for a select group and literacy is the same.  Fountas and Pinnell suggest LLI is a tier 2 or tier 3 strategy. See image for details. It is not for the whole class.

What does Intensive Mean?

  • Daily: All the LLI systems are to be used as a daily support for students.
  • Small groups -Ratios of 1:3 up to 1:4 with the higher-level kits.
  • Time consuming – 30 minutes to 45 minutes with the higher-level kits.

Is LLI Guided Reading?

Not exactly. It is a form of it, an “intensive” form. Guided reading in the general sense, is for all students from struggling readers to students reading beyond grade level. Guided reading does not follow an “intensive” structure and is flexible to the needs of the students and the classroom teacher. Guided reading is usually 15 minutes long, allowing teachers to fit in more groups and the other components of a balanced literacy program.  Students not in “intensive” intervention programs do not need to meet in guided reading groups daily.

Is LLI a Literacy Program?

No. If used as it is intended, LLI is an intervention program for select a group of students in the classroom. The definition of LLI includes the words “supplementary” for a reason.

What Also Helps Struggling Readers? (All readers…actually)

A finely-tuned balanced literacy program which naturally includes universal supports to help all readers. Here is a link to a document that explains Balanced Literacy in depth. Balanced Literacy is not outdated or out of favor, though I feel at times it has been forgotten in its entirety. I’ve noticed teachers relying on other systems (or books) claiming to be a balanced literacy program but the resources are missing balanced literacy components.

What Would You Suggest for a Classroom-Wide Resource?

Curriculum in Alberta is undergoing an overhaul but our current curriculum continues to be alligned to resources such as Literacy Place and Moving Up (Scholastic), Nelson Literacy and anything by Lucy Calkins.

How Soon Can You Use LLI in the School Year?

In grade one, wait until November at least.  Students in grade one are still learning routines and need to be fully immersed in an engaging literacy classroom. All students, even those that are suspected as being behind, can still read one-to-one with teachers and participate in guided reading groups before November. My belief is that grades ones are, with some *exceptions, getting a handle on letters, sounds and basic sight words at the start of the year. In fact, an appropriate fall assessment for grade ones is the Observational Survey by Marie Clay. (I would not suggest and Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment for grade ones in the fall either…same reasons.)

*Exceptions, are students that are reading beyond early grade one level. We do need to assess them to find out how to support their needs too.

Should LLI be Done in the Classroom?

Maybe. If you have no student behaviors. What? Sorry. Just adding some humor to the topic. Let’s face it, struggling readers are not known for their stellar focusing habits. In my experience, the “intensive” requirements of LLI work best in a quiet environment. How you provide that “quiet environment” is up to you but it needs to be a space that respects the needs of the struggling readers.

Does LLI Work for All Struggling Readers?

In my experience, no. It does not work with students who have behavioral needs or students that present with Dyslexia. In our district they are trying out Empowering Readers, a specialized program for students with Learning Disabilities.  In my opinion,  a student with learning disabilities and a student who is a struggling reader are not fully synonymous. When selecting students for LLI, in addition to the reading level, view the whole student profile to see if LLI will be a match for their needs and the needs of the group.

So, that is what I think. I hope it helps with planning decisions for the fall.

As always, any questions…Please let me know.