6 Steps for Visualizing...can you see it?

Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?
One year I had 2 groups of first graders coming to me for extra reading help.  We worked each week on a comprehension strategy and created a toolkit.  When we added visualization, we follows a few easy steps.

Make it make sense.
Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?

At that time most first graders had never heard of “visualizing,” but they may have heard of a “vision” test at the doctor.  Remind them the vision test at the doctor tests their eyes and how well they see.  Then make the connection for them… "vision, visual, visualizing means to see."  However, visualizing is when we put a picture in our head. You can introduce visualizing with sunglasses. Tell students to think of it as reflection in the glass.

2. Visualizing Anchor Chart
Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?

I believe in anchor charts.  It’s important to have students participate in making charts for the classroom.  They will be more invested in the charts and will be more inclined to refer to a chart they have helped make.  I provided the students with a clip art representation of visualizing.  The yellow anchor chart was created by my group. We decided on the definition, then wrote it interactively. The whit chart was written in a friend's classroom. She had the word, a picture and a definition.

3. Practice with letters.

Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?
Give each student a chalkboard and chalk, paper and pencil, or dry erase board and marker.  They will write a letter you describe orally.  Have the students close their eyes while you describe a particular letter.  Tell them to put a pencil in their head and write with it as they hear the directions.  “I’ll make a capital letter.  I am visualizing a straight stick down.  Jumping up tot he top and curving around to the middle, then curving around to the bottom.”  Repeat the directions once more and ask the students to make the letter on the dry erase board.  I’ll make the letter on my board and reveal it to them…then, they will reveal their letter.  Repeat this “game” with 4 or 5 letters.

Once they know you are putting “a picture in their head,” let them practice this.  Ask them to put a picture of recess in their head.  What do you see in your head?  Ask them for specifics.  Who is on the swings?  Where is the teacher standing?  Throw them a curve ball to challenge their vision…do you see a giraffe at recess?

4. Practice with reading.

Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?
Students are given a short paragraph and 2 pictures.  After reading the short paragraph and visualizing the picture, look at the two picture choices and match the words to the text.   Making a 2-part visualizing exercise is easy.  Copy the paragraphs on colored paper (paper must be dark enough students can’t see images through the paper).  Copy the picture choices on white paper.  Staple the color copy to the top and cut the color paper on the lines.  Read the first paragraph to your students while they have their eyes closed.  Let them read the paragraph a second time.  After the second reading, students need to lift the flap with the paragraph and circle the correct picture.
Then, connect it to a story in small group. For an introduction to their story, In The Mountains from Reading A-Z, I asked students to visualize an animal that has stripes.  “What do you see in your head?”  “A zebra.”  “A tiger.”  “A skunk.”  Make sure you are thinking of an animal that would be in the mountains. We discussed each adjective in book by visualizing which animals could be in our book.  Once we have visualized the animals, I provide the book to the students to match their visualized animals with the animals in the book. The striped animal is really a chipmunk...not a zebra.

5. Guided Practice

Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?
As luck would have it...when we were at my brother's house for a family birthday party this visualizing activity was on the refrigerator.  I asked my niece about the activity. She said she was asked to visualize what would happen on Halloween.  They had to draw four pictures about what would happen Halloween night, one picture on each flap. The next day, the teacher asked them to look at their pictures, tell there partner about the night, and then write about it under the flaps.  Very cute flip book!

6. Reading Response

Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?
During small group instruction, weaving visualization into the lessons can help create independence with this strategy. As students leave the small group, ask them to write their own definition of visualization and then write a specific sentence from the book that helped them put a picture in their head and draw a picture. I love the examples of this in the picture on the left.

I hope these visualizing tips help your students "see" the story more clearly.

CLICK HERE for the visualizing activity, or click the picture below.

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Teaching early readers to visualize can create lifelong readers. Follow these 6 steps and it will appear before your eyes. Can you see it?

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Compare and Contrast with Emergent Learners

We are using Benchmark Universe in our school district and sometimes it's hard to get practice with our emergent readers. Our last unit was about Compare and Contrast. It can be an easy skill for students to TALK about, but we wanted to see if we could get them to write about it independently.

We Do.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, if you haven't done it together, don't ask them to do it alone. Make sure you take the time to SHOW them how to do it and HELP them do it, then they will do it. Monday, the Venn diagram was put under the document camera. The teacher discussed the Venn and students helped determine which objects were about the dog and the fish exclusively, and which items were about both. Tuesday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write one sentence about the dog. Wednesday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write one sentence about the fish. Thursday, students helped recreate the Venn and interactively write a sentence about both the dog and the fish.

You Do. Part 1.

The next week, this becomes a center. To ensure students understand the process, the same Venn is put in the center for students to create independently. Students are asked to create the Venn with the pictures.

You Do. Part 2.

After students create the Venn, they are asked to write 3 sentences: one about the dog, one about the fish, one about both. Students are encouraged to use the words on the Venn as a model.

You Do. Part 3.

We have put this in the reading comprehension center for the next several weeks. The more practice students have with creating and writing about compare and contrast, the more the lesson will be meaningful.
If you would like a sample set, click Compare and Contrast Sample Set.

If you would like to purchase the full Compare and Contrast for Early Learner Set, click the link or the picture below.

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Four Square, the Right Way!

This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.
Many years ago, we visited friends with a newborn.  We had been warned the baby was fussy and the parents were tired.  When we got there, we were delighted to meet this precious baby girl.  She was clearly a victim of bad press.

That’s what I think about Four Square writing.  I think the technique is a victim of “bad press.”  The technique was developed by Judith Gould and Mary Burke and I think it is misunderstood.   The Four Square is a plan of what a student wants to write.  We introduce Four Square as plan for a story, but it isn’t the story.  I especially like using Four Square with my struggling writers because it allows for early success.

IT’S AS EASY AS 1-2-3-4!

This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.

Step 1

At the beginning of the year, I introduce a pre-made four square to my kindergartners as we write our first sentences.  This is a whole group interactive writing lesson.  This process takes all week.

Monday – The students are introduced to the four square and the middle box is called the "topic box" from the beginning.  Write the title (or topic) and plan the word wall word sentence.  Practice the sentences ORALLY.

Tuesday – Orally review the title and direct their attention to the top left box in the Four Square.  Say the sentence in its entirety, while counting the words on our fingers.  Write the first word…pick up the spacer…read what we wrote…put the spacer down at the end of the word…count the sentence again...”fold and whisper” (fold your fingers down and whisper the word you wrote…and write the next word.  Complete the sentence using the exact method for each word.

Count…fold and whisper…write…read with spacer…put spacer down…and repeat until the entire sentence.

Wednesday – Read what you wrote Monday and Tuesday, direct their attention to the top right box on the Four Square.  Repeat the pattern from Tuesday.   Say the sentence in its entirety, while counting the words on our fingers.  Write the first word…pick up the spacer…read what we wrote…put the spacer down at the end of the word…count the sentence again...”fold and whisper” (fold your fingers down and whisper the word you wrote…and write the next word.  Complete the sentence using the exact method for each word.

Thursday - Read what you wrote Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Direct their attention to the bottom left box on the Four Square.  Repeat the pattern from the previous days.   Say the sentence in its entirety, while counting the words on our fingers.  Write the first word…pick up the spacer…read what we wrote…put the spacer down at the end of the word…count the sentence again...”fold and whisper” (fold your fingers down and whisper the word you wrote)…and write the next word.  Complete the sentence using the exact method for each word.

Friday - Read what you wrote Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Direct their attention to the bottom right box on the Four Square.  Repeat the pattern from the previous days.   Say the sentence in its entirety, while counting the words on our fingers.  Write the first word…pick up the spacer…read what we wrote…put the spacer down at the end of the word…count the sentence again...”fold and whisper” (fold your fingers down and whisper the word you wrote…and write the next word.  Complete the sentence using the exact method for each word.

Reread the entire story.  Students can be divided into groups to illustrate the story.  The story titled "Fall Things" might read, “I see the apples.  I see the leaves.  I see the pumpkins.  I see the football.”

STEP 2
This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.

As the year progresses, students can be directed to use a pre-made four square to write their own stories.  One of the best things about Four Square is the ability to meet each student at their level.  It’s important that the routine of counting, writing, reading, folding and whispering be encouraged for independent writing, as well.  Providing this model will prove essential in the future.

When students are independent with the Four Square, provide them with individual instruction about adding details.  If the first box is all about leaves, maybe they can add a sentence about the raking the leaves.  “I see the leaves.  I can rake the leaves.”  They could be encouraged to write about the color, size, or where the object it.  Their stories will expand and their confidence in writing, will as well.

STEP 3
This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.

As they are ready, the students can complete a Student-Made Four Square.  They can make their own Four Square, choosing four of the six picture options. Another option might be a four square template and a word book.  Using the book in the picture above, "At the seaside" is the topic.  Students can choose 4 items on the page to write about as details.

The procedure is the same; however, on Monday the students choose the four pictures for the Four Square and write the words in each box.  Encourage students to write multiple sentences about each square, call them paragraphs and teach them to indent!  They can do it.

STEP 4
This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.

Finally, as students are ready…they can create their own Four Squares using a template.  They can plan their story from books or word lists, or they can plan it from their imaginations.

Seeing kindergarten students achieve independence is writing is a great moment.  It’s also one of the most valuable lessons they need to move on to first grade…and it isn’t hard.  Start a routine with writing and they can write about anything.  Students are only limited by the lessons they learn.  Using Four square can help each child progress at their own pace and level.  It’s the perfect differentiation tool.

If you would like a 4 Square Sample pack, CLICK HERE.

Click here for additional packets sold in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  I have packets for fall, winter, spring, summer, sports, jobs, letters, colors and shapes, and blends and digraphs.

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This takes another look at a good (and often misunderstood) writing technique developed by Gould and Burke.  This is a great way to get early writers writing independently.


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Writing Centers for Early Learners

Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.
I believe a Writing Center is a must. But, I also think a 4 Square Center, a First, Then, Last Center, Fab 5 Center and a Word Wall Word Center with Configuration Boxes.  I also believe writing should be in all the centers including a Math Center, a Social Studies/Science Center, and a Squiggle Center.

Writing is one of the most important skills a student can acquire.  There can't be too many ways to practice writing.

Configuration Boxes

This center is definitely a process/product center. Once they understand what is expected, this can be an early independent center. Students start by using the sound chart as topics. The predictable text makes even the earliest learner successful. This isn't a center that should be all year. It is certainly something that can be replaced as students need more.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

4 Square

Sometimes going back helps you go forward. One year, my students were having difficulty writing 4 sentences on a topic.  I knew we had to go back to basics.  I introduced the 4 Square, developed by Gould and Gould, to my students.  We started with a simple pre-made 4 square.  They are instructed in a whole group setting to write a sentence with each box, starting with the top left, going to the top right, moving to the bottom left and going to the bottom right.  When the 4 squares are put in the center, students are allowed to choose a pre-made 4 square or use a word list to make a 4 square, but they always write 4 sentences on a topic.  4 squares MUST be taught as a pre-write, not a finished product.  As they are able, students can be taught to write more than one sentence for each block.  4 square writing is easily differentiated for students.  Students can be taught to write more than one sentence for each box.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

First, Then, Last Center

This is the silliest center ever, but the students are quickly writing 3 step stories.  I use sequencing puzzles found in most classrooms. Using the puzzles, put several Ziploc bags in the center that contain 4 or 5 puzzle sets from the sequencing box.  Each numbered 1 through 5.  I provide story book paper.  First, students choose a bag.  Then, they put the puzzles together.  Last, they choose one puzzle and write 3 sentences.  Cards with the words, FIRST, THEN, and LAST are provided in the center.  Students love it!  They even choose to write the stories during our Wipe-Off Board Center.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

Fab 5

This center was also first discussed by Pat Pavelka.  This center is all about lists…Top 10 Colors, Top 10 Friends, Top 10 Red Things, etc.  Having taught kindergarten for many years, Top 10 was too hard or took too long…so along came Fab 5.  After my students write their list, they must choose one item on the list and write a sentence, or several sentences, about it.  To begin the school year, the students might write Fab 5 Friends or Fab 5 Colors.  As the year progresses, use Anchor Charts made as a whole group in the Fab 5/Top 10 Center.  Students can also use this center to Write The Room, finding words that begin or end with  a specific letter.  Another variation of this center is using a theme word, and  have the students find words around the room. This is another sentence that can be replaced as student writing becomes more meaty.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

Predictable Sentences

The center is just what it seems.  The students are allowed to choose word wall phrases and word cards to create sentences. The introduction of the Big 3 (capitals, spaces, and end marks) can make this center a top choice for independence. Each week students pick new word wall words. This is definitely a process center. The students learn to write sentences NEATLY with the Big 3.
Writing centers can be varied and independent, but they are very important. Making students write often creates successful writers.

I love teaching writing!  It is amazing to see the students develop right in front of your eyes.  Writing needs to be taught strategically and practiced often.  It is also important for students to find success early, so that they aren’t afraid to write.

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