Visualizing and Sensory Language

Visualizing. We all know it’s an important reading strategy and we all teach it, but it can be difficult to explain and measure. That is because 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 is 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 visualizing and sensory language lessons deeper.

How to Teach Visualizing and Sensory Language

Start with an Anchor Chart

As with any reading strategy, I like to introduce the skill with an anchor chart. 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.



When making an anchor chart for visualizing, include that it involves creating mental images with all five senses. Help them understand 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. Click here or on the image to get your copy of this interactive mini anchor chart for your students’ reading notebooks.


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. Click here or on the photo to grab a copy for your students’ reading notebooks.


Visualizing Activity
Brainstorm Sensory Language

Brainstorming descriptive words and phrases mentally prepares them for finding and identifying sensory language in the text. Plus, this helps them include more sensory language in their own writing!


use graphic organizers and charts

Practice identifying sensory language and the senses that it appeals to through shared reading, read alouds, and independent reading. Charting the sensory language that you find while reading helps the students understand how sensory language appeals to the senses. This leads to valuable author’s craft discussions of how and why authors use sensory language 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.

Interactive Anchor Chart to Collect Sensory Language


Creating an interactive chart, or “parking lot”, 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.

Play a Game on Kahoot!

Use Kahoot as a formative assessment to see where your students are with their understanding of visualizing and sensory language. This can be a great way to review as well! Here is a link to a game I created. It’s completely free to join and play!



Looking to learn more about how to use and play Kahoot? Click here for more information.

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:

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.

Have the students write sensory poems. Here is a pack that includes brainstorming, drafting, and publish pages for all occasions! This is great for seasonal and holiday displays as well!

Sensory Poems for Any Occasion

Mentor Texts


Great mentor texts are key with any teaching reading strategy. For visualizing, it is important to choose texts that are FULL of sensory language. Check out these incredible books!

Mentor Texts for Visualizing and Sensory Language




NIghtsong by Ari BerkNightsong by Ari Berk (DRA 24, Reading Level M)

This book is adorable. Chiro is a young bat just learning to find his way around using his “good sense.” It is full of sensory language that appeals to the sense of sight.



Honey I Love by Eloise GreenfieldHoney, I Love and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield (DRA 24, Reading Level M)

This is one of my favorite collections of poetry. The poem “Riding on a Train” is great for visualizing. It lends itself to so many other reading strategies and skills as well, so run and get it if you don’t have a copy already!


Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz RyanHello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan (DRA 30, Reading Level N)

Hello Ocean is the perfect book for introducing sensory language that appeals to ALL FIVE SENSES.


The Seashore Book by Charlotte ZolotowThe Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow (DRA 34, Reading Level O)

A mother uses sensory language in this book to help her son visualize the sea. Students love to visualize right along with him.



Owl Moon by Jane YolenOwl Moon by Jane Yolen (DRA 34, Reading Level O)

Owl Moon is a classic. Sensory language helps readers imagine a boy’s experience as he goes “owling” with his father.



Into the Sea by Brenda Z GuibersonInto the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson (DRA 34, Reading Level O)

This book is about the life of a sea turtle as she grows and learns in the sea. It is stunning.



Bed Head by Margie PalatiniBed Head by Margie Palatini (DRA 38, Reading Level P)

This over-the-top book is highly engaging. The kids love it.




The Great Frog Race and Other Poems by Kristine O'Connell GeorgeThe Great Frog Race and Other Poems by Kristine O’Connell George (DRA 38, Reading Level P)

This collection of poems contains imagery, sensory language, and a wide variety of poetic forms. It is just perfect.



Silver Seeds by Paolilli and Dan BrewerSilver Seeds by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer (Easy text)

This is a beautiful collection of accessible nature poems that are full of sensory language.