Visualizing: Hill of Fire


This lesson is designed to expand the skill of visualizing for primary students, using the book Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis.

For students to be able to use visualization as a comprehension strategy, they need to be able to imagine what is described in the text. Students should already have some familiarity with the concept of visualizing, which they can gain by participating in Visualing: Follow the Drinking Gourd. As students advance in their visualizing skills, they should be able to visualize not only concrete examples, but also more abstract ideas and processes, showing they understand the author's purpose.


  • Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis

  • Popsicle sticks, Unifix cubes, pattern blocks, or other manipulatives

  • Paper and pencils


  1. Hook/Engagement

    Tell students that you will read a story called Hill of Fire. Read the "Author's Note" at the end of the story, showing students where Mexico is on a map of the world. Begin by finding out how much students already know about volcanoes. Have students explain to each other what volcanoes are and how they work. Draw a picture of a volcano, and have students label the picture, using the words in the vocabulary section.

    Say, "I am going to describe a picture made up of shapes. Listen carefully to the description. If you like, you can close your eyes and try to create a picture in your mind as I talk. When I am done, you can draw the picture I've described."

    "There is a square in the middle of a page. It has a circle inside it. There is a triangle on top of the square."

    Once students have had a chance to try drawing the figure that you have described, discuss the activity. Is there more than one correct way to visualize the shapes, given the description? For instance, the description doesn't specify whether the square is large or small, whether the circle takes up the entire inside of the square, or whether the triangle is touching the square. To continue this activity, describe other shape combinations and have students first listen to the description then try to re-create the figures you describe.

  2. Vocabulary

    • Magma-liquid rock deep in the earth

    • Lava-magma (liquid rock) that has poured through a crack in the surface of the earth because of a volcanic eruption

    • Eruption-lava pouring out of the earth

    • Volcano-a mountain formed by volcanic eruption

  3. Measurable Objectives

    Explain to your class that you want to help them become better at creating pictures in their minds based on the text they read. Explain that at the end of the lesson, you'll check to see if their ability to visualize has improved.

  4. Focused Instruction

    Explain to students that the story you are about to read is based on a true story. Ask students to think about Pablo and his father, the farmer, as they listen to the story and to try to picture, or visualize, what is happening to them as the story goes on. Begin to read the book without showing pictures, pausing at points that are particularly descriptive and lend themselves to visualizing. For instance, after reading, "The little hole became a bigger hole. There was a noise deep under the ground, as if something big had growled." Share the pictures that come into your own mind as you read the text, perhaps pausing to draw pictures. Use as many adjectives as you can to describe the hole's color, size, and depth. Describe to students how you think Pablo and his father feel as this is happening. Even though the author does not use the words, "loud," "surprised," or "scared," you might think of those words as you read the text, and share them with students.

  5. Guided Practice

    Continue reading the story, stopping to have students describe what they are visualizing.

    The following sentences may be appropriate stopping places:

    • White smoke came from the hole in the ground.

    • There was a loud crack, and the earth opened wide.

    • The farmer ran all the way to the village.

    • That night no one slept. Everyone watched the sky.

    • The earth was coughing. Every time it coughed, the hill of fire grew bigger.

    Have students describe or draw what the pictures might look like. Encourage them to provide many details to describe the scenes. If they are having difficulty, ask questions such as, "What might that look like? How big do you think that was? Do you think they were afraid? What do people look like when they are afraid?"

  6. Independent Practice

    Finish reading the story, stopping at the following sentences to have students draw a picture of what they are visualizing as the text is read.

  • When the booming stopped and the fires grew smaller, the farmer's house was gone.

  • They had a great fiesta because now they were safe.

Discuss student's pictures, and how visualizing helps them to understand the story.

As an extension activity, pair students and have one student create a figure (using tangrams, blocks, or other manipulatives) and describe it to a partner, who then draws a picture based on the description. Once the drawing in completed, compare the drawing to the figure that was created. Students may discover that using a small number of pieces and very specific language makes the figure easier to describe and visualize. Repeat the activity, reversing the students' roles, and discuss the results. Did students to anything differently? Did they use what they learned the first time to make the second round go more smoothly?

  • Assessment

    Have students describe their pictures to you, including as much detail as possible. Evaluate their visualizations to determine if they are able to create appropriate images from the texts.Volcanoes are a rich topic for visualization. Other nonfiction books on volcanoes will help students have a more complete picture of this natural phenomenon. If you choose to launch a study of volcanoes, one way to assess students' understanding with regard to visualization is to ask them to give a verbal or written description of one or more aspects of a volcano.

  • Reflection and Planning

    To continue working on visualizing, point out descriptive language in texts students are reading. Pause during particularly vivid passages to help students articulate the pictures they are creating in their minds as they listen. Encourage students to use descriptive text in their own writing and to visualize the images they want to relate as part of the pre-writing process.

    For students who need additional practice, you may use the previous lesson on this topic, using different texts. For students who are struggling with this concept, have them visualize texts that are clear and very descriptive until they are competent at visualizing concrete scenes. Then progress to more abstract visualizations, imagining themselves as characters in the text.

    Pearson Education

    Use a lesson that is designed to expand the skill of visualizing for primary students, using the book Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis.

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