Visualizing and Verbalizing

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Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking (V/V) is designed to instruct and improve reading comprehension, oral language comprehension and expression, written language expression, and critical thinking skills in individuals of all ages through the development of concept imagery.

Theoretical Foundation

Language comprehension can be described in terms of the ability to connect to and interpret both oral and written language. This includes recalling facts, understanding concepts, making inferences, and extending or evaluating a concept. For many individuals, gestalts (defined as a complex organized unit or whole that is more than the sum of its parts) are not easily or successfully processed. Instead, parts are processed but not the entirety of the concept. A concept cannot be understood if only a few parts have been grasped. An adequate inference cannot be determined or an accurate conclusion drawn from an incomplete grasp of a concept.

Readers or listeners construct mental models of the situation a writer or speaker is describing. This is the basis of language comprehension. There is considerable evidence in the field of both cognitive psychology and reading that supports imagery as a critical factor in language comprehension (Paivio, 1971; Kosslyn, 1976; Wittrock 1981) and that school aged readers instructed to imagine while reading performed significantly better on recall and making predictive inferences about what they had read (Kulhavy & Swenson, 1975; Gambrell, 1982).

Intervention description

V/V relies on teacher directed questions to assist students in forming images. Twelve structure words (e.g., what, size, color, shape, etc.), are used to provide a framework from which to create images and also elicit language to discuss what was imagined. Initially, the teacher shows the student a simple line drawing and elicits a description of the drawing in the context of the twelve structure words. The teacher confirms what the student says at each point and models the imaging process by replaying the complete image the student's words evoke in the mind. Then the teacher takes a turn using language to verbally describe a simple drawing to the student as the student creates the gestalt image in his or her mind. The level of difficulty increases as one moves through the program, from pictures to words, sentences to paragraphs.

Materials/Training Required

Specialist training is not necessary but can be sought from the Dyslexia Assessment and Education Centre (Australian).

Similar/Alternative Interventions

LiPS, Seeing Stars


Afzal, M. (2003). Make a movie in your head: Visualisation with culturally and linguistically diverse learning disabled students in the reading classroom. Retrieved April 30th, 2007 from

Bell, N. (1986). Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking. San Luis Obispo, CA: Gander Educational Publishing.

Gambrell, L., B. & Koskinen, P., S. (1982). Mental Imagery and the Reading Comprehension of Below Average Readers: Situational Variables and Sex Differences. Proceedings from Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Lindamood, P. & Bell, N. (2000). The roles of concept imagery, phoneme awareness, and symbol imagery in cognitive modifiability. Retrieved April 30th, 2007, from

Linden, M. & Wittrock M.C. (1981). The Teaching of Reading Comprehension according to the Model of Generative Learning. Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 17, 1, pp. 44-57

Johnson-Glenberg, M.C. (2000). Training Reading Comprehension in Adequate Decoders/ Poor comprehenders: Verbal versus visual strategies. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 4, 772-782.

Linden, M. & Wittrock M.C. (1981). The Teaching of Reading Comprehension according to the Model of Generative Learning. Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 17, 1, pp. 44-57

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