January 09, 2020

Lina Awshee

Spelling Success through Visualization

Topics: Brainteasers, visualization, spelling


As educators, we all likely know a student who “shuts down” when spelling tasks are brought up.  The mere thought of having to work on spelling makes the student turn into mush and the walls come straight up because they associate their performance as not being good enough. 

Learning – and spelling -- shouldn’t be a daunting task.  It should be an exciting adventure!  How can we, as educators, help assist them in this journey?   As a Vision Therapist, one of the tools I learned was the power of visualization.  Working in a Developmental Optometry office, I had the privilege of learning about how our brain and our visual system communicate in order for us to retain information in a more kinesthetic way.  Sure, straight memorization might work, but the alternative --  a more “whole body” based learning -- creates a more meaningful input which the brain is more incentivized to retain.

Over the past decade, I have been able to utilize many tools to help students of varying learning levels and abilities increase their visual memory and visualization skills. But today, I want to share my favorite one.

Game: Going on an ADVENTURE!

(Jungle Trip, Picnic, Princess Adventure, you name it!)


This one is a fan favorite!  I use this game as a beginning stage of how I explain the concept of visualization.  This game is simple. You really don’t need anything and can play anywhere at any time.  Begin with establishing the adventure.  For example, let’s go on a picnic.  Discuss with the student what the picnic might look like (in the beginning, to make it a little more concrete, I will draw out the picnic for them so they can literally see it). If the materials are available or for my more concrete learners, I will actually set up a picnic in the room. Here are some of the questions I ask to get their visualization wheels turning:  I also encourage outrageous answers as that helps stimulate memory:

Close your eyes and picture this:

  • Where are we? (park, backyard, school)
  • What do you see? (grass, a hill, a sandbox, playground, trees, dinosaurs)
  • Pick a place for us to put our blanket down (next to the big red dinosaur)
  • What color is our blanket? (checkered red and white, rainbow colored)
  • Now lets sit and see what else we brought to the picnic!

From here, we take turns bringing something to the picnic and placing it somewhere in the visual imagery.  When it is your turn, you repeat everything else that has been brought before you by closing your eyes, picturing the picnic and simply just naming what you see.  Here is an example dialog:

I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing with me… A BIG PINK SANDWICH!  (now all participants close their eyes and place this big pink sandwich somewhere in their picnic – perhaps it is in the sandbox. It doesn’t matter where as long as they are placing it in their own imagery).

Then the next participant will say “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing with me…a big pink sandwich, and a PURPLE DOG!”   By repeating what the previous participants brought, it stimulates their visual recall to retrieve the imagery as well as retain the images. 

The goal of this activity is to get the students to turn the item into a “picture” rather than repeating in their head “pink sandwich, pink sandwich, pink sandwich” in order to remember it.  When the student is able to learn to live in the imagery they are creating, it will become much easier to retrieve the information they are recalling.  Over time, you will be amazed at how many items a student is able to remember by creating these silly images in their minds.

Here’s where all of this ties into spelling:  Utilizing this concept, I encourage students to turn their spelling words into pictures.  For example, the word “Dog” – rather than repeating and remembering D-O-G, D-O-G, over and over, we draw it out.  The letter D with a tongue sticking out, an O turned into a spiral and a G that’s wearing a hat?! How hilarious! We make up stories, we draw them in the air, we draw them in the sand, we dance them out.   It becomes an image they simply can’t forget.  Now, when asked to spell the word DOG, they aren’t racking their brains for the letters that make up the word, they are visualizing the picture the word creates.  Over time, this approach will help develop their ability to visualize words without having to draw everything out or add ridiculous details.  It exercises the areas of the brain and visual system that communicate and will make it so much easier for them to simply see words, turn them into visual images, and retrieve them when necessary.

I was compensated for this blog post but the opinions are my own.

lina4Lina Awshee, COTA/L

Lina is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with a background as a Pediatric Vision Therapist.  Currently, Lina is practicing in the school systems where she works with students of all ages. When she isn’t working, Lina enjoys sharing purposeful ways to include skill development into daily playtime. You can find fun suggestions by following her on Instagram 

A note from ThinkFun

At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.

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