7 Tips for Visualizing and Sensory Language in 3rd Grade

Visualizing can be difficult to explain and measure with our third graders since it all happens inside the brain. Often, we try to get these thoughts on paper by having students draw what they “see” while reading, but visualizing is much more than that. It’s a form of inferring. Readers must identify and use the sensory language provided by the author to infer and imagine the experiences of the characters. This means we need to be digging deeper. We need to teach our students to analyze how and why authors are using imagery in their writing. Below are some ideas to help you take your lessons deeper.

Start with an Anchor Chart

As with any reading strategy, I like to introduce visualizing and sensory language with anchor charts. Visualizing anchor charts are essential because they make thinking visible and provide a visual reference to the most important ideas of each concept. I like to engage students in creating mini anchor charts for their interactive notebooks as well. I find that they remember the key ideas better when they create their own references.

Be sure to include that readers create mental images with all five senses when making your visualizing anchor chart. Explain that we use a mixture of our senses to create a 4-D movie in our heads based on what we read. This helps us imagine what the character is experiencing, the setting, and better understand the story.


Draw and Justify Visualizations

Having students draw what they visualize while reading is a common practice. Take it further by having the students also record the author’s language that helped them visualize. This is an important step in helping them understand how to identify sensory language.

Brainstorm Sensory Language

I like to do this when we create our sensory language anchor chart. Brainstorming descriptive words and phrases mentally prepares them for finding and identifying this the text. I find this helps the students understand how this creates imagery and appeals to the senses. Plus, this helps them create more imagery in their own writing!

Use Graphic Organizers and Charts for Sensory Language You Find

Practice identifying sensory language and the senses that it appeals to through shared reading, read aloud, and independent reading. Creating these charts while reading helps the students understand how it appeals to the senses. This leads to valuable author’s craft discussions of how authors use it to create imagery in their writing.

Create a Space to Collect Sensory Language

Give your students a collective space to list and share the sensory language that they find while reading independently. This extends their practice far beyond your workshop lessons and promotes thoughtful book talks between peers.

Creating a large interactive chart is an easy way to help students share the sensory language they find. Simply have the students write the title, author, and sensory language found in the text on a Post-It Note and match it to the corresponding sense. This can be differentiated for more advanced learners (or upper grades) by requiring the students to include a short analysis of the author’s use of the sensory language. These can be shared orally at the end of reading workshop or the end of the week to clear space for others.

Write, Write, Write!

Students develop and enhance their understanding of sensory language when they use it in their own writing. Here are some possible ideas:

  • Poetry is such a fun genre for this because of the creativity it allows. Sensory poems are great for seasonal and holiday displays as well! You can find the pages pictured below in a pack that brings students through the writing process here.
  • Have the students write a descriptive paragraph about a place that is familiar to them using sensory language. Create a goal of how many senses they need to appeal to.
  • Display a picture and have the students use sensory language to write either a descriptive paragraph or short story about the photo. This is a great one to throw in your writing station!

Play a Game on Kahoot!

Who doesn’t love playing games at school? Kahoot is amazing because you can give valuable practice with rigorous questions in an interactive game format. The kids absolutely love it! Use it for review, practice, or as a formative assessment to see where your students are with their understanding of visualizing and sensory language. It’s completely free to join and play! Learn more about how to use and play Kahoot here.

Here’s a free review game that I created. Click here or on the image to play it with your students!


Looking to Help Your Students Understand How Figurative Language Creates Imagery?


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hello, i'm laura heinen from cultivating critical readers

I help third and fourth grade RLA teachers like you create engaging and effective reading lessons without all the stress.

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