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Visualisation and the Implications for Writing Extensive Readers
by Jo Appleton
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Practical Applications of Visualisation

  • Visualisations can be used for speaking practice as they create a natural information gap.
  • For descriptions, a visualisation of a student's relative, focusing on personality and physical appearance, can be followed by students describing the relative to a partner. Write the questions from the visualisation on the board as prompts, for example, 'What's he/she like? What does he /she look like?'
  • To stimulate speaking. For example, after a visualisation of an airport departure lounge where students hear the conversations of a variety of different people (for example, two strangers who have just met etc), they act out the conversations.
  • For narrating. For example, after a visualisation of a memorable event, students ask each other about the event using the questions from the visualisation.
  • They can be used for revising vocabulary.
  • They can be used to develop students' self-confidence. For example, a visualisation of a successful learning event. (Donald, 2003)


The results of the research go some way to confirm my ideas about the importance of visualisation. The research indicates that with prior awareness raising and activities encouraging visualisation learners may be able to visualise and consequently comprehend and recall more and be more motivated to read. However, I can in no way prove that these specific genres raise awareness and increase the use of visualisation, but I can tentatively state that I believe this to be the case in view of these results. More research into this area is necessary to gain a better understanding of the role and benefits of visualisation and bring more credibility to this field. On the whole the research has made steps towards showing that if learners are encouraged to visualise through specific use of genres in readers, then learners could make considerable gains, not only in terms of motivation but also with language learning in general.

So, I conclude with a plea to materials writers for Extensive Readers and all writers, teachers:

  • Try to write materials that encourage visualisation but also leave gaps for visualisation to take place.
  • Use interesting and varied topics and genres.
  • Try to include more readiness activities for visualisation before extensive reading.
  • Try to provide suggestions and supporting notes and information in the 'Teacher's Book'.
  • Use appropriate and authentic tasks pre, whilst and post-reading.
  • Ask learners to make connections to their own lives and experiences.

And to learners:

  • Try visualisation in your L2 reading! You'll be surprised and motivated by the results!
Finally, my concern is that more materials are needed to encourage the use of visualisation in language learning. I believe this can be achieved through extensive readers for maximum benefit.


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Jo Appleton is an ELT lecturer in the School for Languages at Leeds Metropolitan University. She coordinates the International Foundation Studies programme and is part of the materials writing team, currently involved with projects in Ethiopia and Singapore.
Jo is also Membership Secretary for MATSDA. To join MATSDA you can contact Jo at

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