When narrating a story to a child who is visualizing, how do you know when to interject visualization cues? Here is a short list:

1. When you start, set the mood. Summarize what the story is about--location, characters, and plot. And be sure to add a "carrot" that will get your listener interested in finding out what happens. “This story is going to get pretty exciting/wierd/scary...”

2. Whenever there is a scene change, help your listener form a mental picture. It might be at the beginning of a chapter or in the middle of a story, but when the scene changes, there is a great opportunity for visualization. You can simply ask, “Can you picture it?” or you can elaborate by talking about your own imaginative images.

3. Whenever a new character is introduced. Personally, I like authors to leave characters a little vague, so that I can imagine them to look like people I know. As you narrate, encourage your listener to build an image of each character--an image that gets clearer and more detailed as the story progresses. “Let’s start building a photo of Edison in our minds. Picture a boy, any boy. You can fill in the details or change the way he looks as you find out more about him later in the story.”

4. Just before a key event in the plot, ask where your listener would take the story. A little foreshadowing keeps children guessing and stretches their imagination. “Oh oh, I think something weird is going to happen. What do you think it will be?”

5. When a character shows emotion. Can you remember reading something like “...and Pippi’s mouth turned into a perfect O of surprise...” and irresistibly, your mouth mimics that of the character? In those moments, you are fully immersed in the story. Give your listener a cue that it is okay to react: “Let’s see you make that face!”

6. When the author introduces sounds. Authors add dimensionality to scenes and events with descriptions of sounds and smells. Sounds other than clangs, bangs, and explosions are often referential; they may be folk songs, popular songs, chants, and so on. If the sound is integral to he scene or plot, you should ask your listener if it is familiar. A little research on the Web can unearth a song track, or you can relate it to a similar song that your listener knows.

7. When smells are integral parts of a scene. Humans seem to have a hard time envisioning smells and most people can’t conjure up a smell as readily as they can conjure up a mental image. What we seem to do, however, is associate smells with feelings. The scent of chocolate chip cookies, for example, can give us happy feelings, while the smell of bleach might be kind of depressing. So, “Think about how you feel when the smell of chocolate chip cookies is wafting out of your kitchen,” might be a good cue to keep your listener immersed in the story.

In my next post, I’ll include some concrete examples of narrative cues and in later posts, I’ll discuss how authors can borrow these strategies to improve their writing.
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Published on February 20, 2014 09:37 • 291 views • Tags: dead-chest-island, edison-jones, eyes-shut, learn-to-read, reluctant-readers, visualization

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Reading With Eyes Shut

J.J. Parsons
Reluctant readers may spend so much effort decoding words, that they have no additional mental capacity for imagery. Because decoding is “hard” and without imagery, there is little pleasure in reading ...more
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