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New York, NY
PK - 12
Class Size:
Less than 10
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  1. A copy of The Tale of Despereaux
  2. Chart paper and marker
  3. Completed Vivid Mental Image as example
  4. 50+ copies of Vivid Mental Image [] (PDF), three-hole punched
  5. Pencils and crayons
  6. One-inch three-ring binder


Students will:

  1. Listen to explanation of "vivid mental image" and look at example.
  2. Generate a list of possible mental images after listening to chapter one.
  3. Create mental images while listening to the story.
  4. Write explanations to go with their mental images.
  5. Combine the pages into a notebook for their class library.

Resource Instructions

Day 1
Read chapter one of The Tale of Despereaux.

Possible questions to ask might include:

  • What pictures did you see in your mind?
  • What do you think that looks like?
  • Now can you picture that?
  • What image pops into your head when you hear that?
  • When I read that I think of this picture...What do you think of?
  • Can you picture that from (name of character)'s perspective?

Introduce the idea of the concept of vivid mental image or clear mind picture. Tell the class that good readers make pictures, even films, in their minds as they read.

Day 2

Step 1:
Review the idea of vivid mental image as a technique used by effective readers. Explain that as you read, students will be listening and transferring their mental images onto paper and writing short captions to go with them.

Step 2:
Show your example to the class. Help the students generate a list of topics for vivid mental images from chapter one. List them on chart paper. Have students select an image from the list. Ask them to pick an image that is especially clear to them.

Step 3:
Make sure everyone has a paper, pencil, and crayons before starting to read chapter two. Observe the "no walking, no talking" rule while you're reading aloud.

Step 4:
At the end of chapter two ask for a couple of images from that chapter and record them. Ask for a volunteer or two to share their images.

Note: Some teachers think that second graders are not capable of multitasking during a read-aloud and listen less well if asked to draw and write while their teacher reads. I have found the opposite to be true. My students actually listen better when they draw while I'm reading, as long as what they're doing is directly related to the story.

Day 3 and following

Continue as Day 2. Allow a few minutes each day to add to the list of topics and select topics. Then read, stopping frequently to discuss.  

  • Occasionally sketch simple line drawings, diagrams, maps, etc., to illustrate what is happening in the story.
  • At the end of reading time, allow a couple of students to share what they have drawn and written.
  • Hold up examples of quality work to show the class what you want.


More capable readers will get the concept of making pictures in their mind right away. They may already be making mind pictures without even knowing it. You might ask one or two more fluent readers to share with the class how they make pictures in their minds as they read other books.
Another idea for more capable readers is to put them in charge of the notebook. It will be their jobs to check the notebook daily and make sure that students are adding pages in sequence, following the story.


Were students:

  • Listening to the read-aloud?
  • Asking and answering questions?
  • Remembering what was read?
  • Identifying key parts of the story to illustrate?
  • Drawing pictures with plenty of detail?
  • Using complete sentences as they explain their pictures in writing?
  • Completing the work they started in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Putting their pages into the notebook in the proper sequence?

Note: I don't assess students in the beginning, but rather give them a chance to grow and improve. I do hold up examples of high quality work to show them what is possible and what I expect. Since I save their work in a notebook I'm able to observe their skill increase over time.

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