skimming

Train ESL students to speed read – Mapping the text

This is the fourth in the series of techniques to help students develop and practice their reading skills. Here’s the first post on the difference between ‘reading quickly’ and skimming, the second one on raising awareness about eye movement in speed reading, the third on obscuring textual margins and tricking / teaching the brain to skim texts.

For long sections of text, it’s useful to teach our learners to map the text. Essentially, this is a breaking down of the text into smaller digestible chunks by identifying the main idea being talked about over one or two paragraphs. When mapping a text, it’s a good idea to divide it into sections using a horizontal line between paragraphs and writing a keyword or two that sums up the main idea in the margins. (more…)

Train ESL students to speed read – Obscure the margins

This is the third in the series of techniques to help students develop and practice their reading skills. Here’s the first post on the difference between ‘reading quickly’ and skimming, and the second one on raising awareness about eye movement in speed reading.

A lot of students find it difficult to focus on keywords or move their eyes from top to bottom and bottom to top because they are so used to reading texts word for word. This is especially true if the text is perceived as challenging and students feel the need to understand it word for word.

To give the brain an additional impetus to skim and NOT read word for word, ask students to fold in the margins of their text so as to hide a little bit (half an inch or so for an A4 size paper) of the text on either side. By removing the beginning and ending of each line of the text, we are quite literally (I think the use of the word is quite justified here) forcing or tricking the brain into reading only the keywords and forcing top-to-bottom eye movement.

Next time, I’ll talk about a cool technique called mapping the text to divide long texts into more digestible chunks.

Train ESL students to speed read – Reading quickly vs. Skimming

When I observe teachers delivering reading lessons, they often hand out a page of dense text to their students, set a gist task, and set a time limit of anywhere between 30 seconds to two minutes. For a scanning task, time limits are often too generous, allowing students to read every word of the text which defeats the purpose of scanning. And yet, invariably, students let out a collective groan when the teacher sets a time limit. “Teacher, need more time!” is the most common response. And the teacher says, “Read the text quickly!” 

Here’s what I’m thinking sitting at the back of the classroom:

  1. Do students know how to read quickly?
  2. Can they read the assigned 200 words in 30 seconds?
  3. Do they know they don’t have to read every word of the text for the given task?
  4. Has the teacher taught them skimming, scanning and speed reading in previous lessons?
  5. Have students been taught scanning skills, in case these haven’t been transferred from their L1?
  6. When reading for detail, are they aware of strategies to deal with unknown vocabulary?

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