How to Teach Visualizing and Sensory Language

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Visualizing can be a difficult strategy to explain and measure 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 visualizing and sensory language lessons deeper.


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.

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.

Visualizing Anchor Chart


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.

Sensory Language Interactive Notebook by Cultivating Critical Readers


Practice identifying sensory language and the senses that it appeals to through shared reading, read aloud, 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.


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!


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 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.

Writing Sensory Poems by Cultivating Critical Readers
Photo credit: @teachinginatopknot on Instagram


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

Sensory poetry is such a fun genre for this because of the creativity it allows. This is great for seasonal and holiday displays as well! You can find the pages pictured above 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.


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.

Click here or on the image to play this free Visualizing and Sensory Language Review Game.

Free Visualizing and Sensory Language Review Game


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!

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

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 and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield

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 Muñoz Ryan (DRA 30, Reading Level N)

Hello Ocean is the perfect book for introducing sensory language that appeals to ALL FIVE SENSES. There is also a bilingual edition!

The 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 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. 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.

Bedhead 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 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 Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer (Easy text)

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

Mentor Texts for Visualizing and Sensory Language Cultivating Critical Readers
How to Teach Visualizing and Sensory Language by Cultivating Critical Readers