It’s a Thursday afternoon. There is a buzz around school that there is a possibility of a “Cold Day” tomorrow! Below zero temps were blowing our way… Not a Snow Day… but a “Brrrrr, it’s a bitter Cold Day”! Teachers and students alike are distracted by visualizing an extended weekend.
You know the feeling, the anticipation of schools closing is almost as paralyzing as the impending frozen fingers and toes to be had, if we were to attempt the commute to school the next day. Fingers and toes crossed we won’t have to!
Teachers are visualizing sleeping in, followed by a lazy morning in their pajamas drinking HOT coffee in a real coffee mug and perusing Pinterest. While students are creating mental images of their favorite cartoon and gaming characters.
So when we finally received “advanced” notice that afternoon, that schools were indeed “CLOSED due to inclement weather”; teachers and students were immediately blissfully daydreaming of the perfect day at home.
It was all we could think about. It was time to deviate from the scope and sequence of our Reader’s Workshop and postpone the day’s planned lesson and continue on with our visualizations. Bittersweet!
Reading a winter-themed story seemed like an appropriate choice given the circumstances. So I uploaded our Winter Listening Center and with a quick click, we were listening to the author himself: Robert Munsch, read aloud his highly entertaining children’s book: 50 Below Zero.
Young readers are inundated with visual images every day while playing video games and watching TV. Teaching children HOW to create their own mental images can be a challenging task these days. Choosing highly engaging text is a MUST when showing children how to visualize a text in an effort to improve their comprehension. Doing so will instill a love of reading and create life-long readers. This entertaining winter read aloud did just this, on the eve of a “Cold Day”.
Proficient readers spontaneously and purposely create mental images while and after they read. The images emerge from all five senses as well as the emotions and are anchored in a reader’s prior knowledge”
-Keene and Zimmerman, Mosaic of Thought
The First Read Aloud WITHOUT Illustrations
The best part of this read aloud is that we simply listened to the story without the illustrations! We were immersed in visualizing a bitter cold evening as Robert Munsch painted mental images in our minds eye.
We listened as Robert Munsch himself read his tale with entertaining character voices, exaggerated snoring and fluent expression! Without having the illustrations to guide our comprehension we had to rely on our own mental images to envision the story.
The kids were giggling, wiggling and repeatedly asked me to rewind the story to “listen to that part again”. And we did, more than a few times. It brought me such pleasure to see them so amused and engaged with a read aloud without being dependent on the illustrations to assist them.
This visualization activity did not end there. We didn’t want the fun to end! We discussed the story events and recalled the details that formed such vivid images in our mind’s eye. We began by closing our eyes recalling more and more details that improved the picture in our mind. We set to work illustrating our favorite part of the story. We shared our illustrations and giggled again as we admired each other’s work!
A Second Read Aloud WITH Illustrations
With time to spare, I asked the children if they wanted to see what Michael Martchenko’s mental images looked like when he illustrated the book. Of course they said yes, and thanks to YouTube, I quickly found the same read aloud in Munsch’s voice WITH illustrations. I ran the link through SafeShare.tv and voila! Another read aloud was in session.
Oh, the roars of laughter and wiggles and giggles that took place in our meeting place! The children were completely entertained with the illustrations as Papa was found sleeping on the refrigerator, the car, and leaning against a tree in 50 below zero temps!
Comparing Mental Images With Those of the Illustrator
Of course, this read aloud was not all fun and game… we then had quite a serious discussion about how the illustrator’s mental images were different than our own. It wasn’t just because he was a better artist. We discussed how Michael has different experiences in life that allowed him to add more detail to his drawings. So the children revisited their favorite part of the story and drew a second illustration to mimic the illustrator’s. They added more detail and their mental images became more clear. As well as their comprehension of the story.
Take a closer look at the images below. Notice how in the first example, a student drew a picture of Papa sleeping against a tree that has green leaves-in the dead of winter! In the second drawing that mimics the illustrator’s, this same student revised their mental image to include bare branches and added the main character wearing a scarf as well.
The two other examples also include more details of the setting which brings a powerful message to our young readers. It is also interesting to note that my students commented that they envisioned “Papa” to be an old man for they call their grandfathers “Papa”. However, in this story, it appears Papa is the father! Having your students compare their visualizations with that of an illustrator will help them fine-tune their visualization techniques (not their artistic ability) to include the senses. They will also come to realize that everyone has different mental images based on their background knowledge and schema!
I can’t wait to revisit this book in a Writer’s Workshop lesson when we discuss adding details to our stories. Like the author, we need to help our readers make better mental images by providing LOTS of details. Thank you Robert Munsch for this awesome story that has inspired us to become better readers AND writers!
If this lesson sounds like a win to you too, I gathered all the resources you will need to share this visualization lesson with your own students. You can find it HERE at my TpT shop.
- Teacher’s Notes Page
- 9 slides to guide you through the lesson.
- TWO separate links are included for the story. The first link includes audio only. The second link includes audio and illustrations.
- There are two listening task cards included (with SafeShare links) for your Listening Center. Scan the QR code, or click on the book cover to be directed to the Read Aloud; free of ads and inappropriate content.
- One recording sheet will help your students compare their mental images with that of the illustrator.