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The Textmapping Project
A resource for teachers improving reading comprehension skills instruction

Benefits of Scrolls and Textmapping

Bullet point There are seven key instructional benefits to scrolls and textmapping:

  1. Scrolls and textmapping are explicit. They enable teachers to model reading comprehension processes in such a way that students can clearly see what comprehension looks like and how it is achieved. They accomplish this by:
    • showing each text as a complete and continuous whole (books can not do this; computers do not yet do this - and it is yet to be seen whether they will be able to)
    • providing a level of random access - instantaneous access from anywhere to anywhere in the text - that neither books nor screens can match
    • enabling the use of concrete, multisensory thinking skills to manage abstract thinking tasks (books can not do this; computers provide a limited set of capabilities by comparison to scrolls and textmapping, and few of these capabilities have yet been applied to text)
  2. Photograph: Teacher walking along, partially bent over, with a marker in hand, looking down at a scroll that she has unrolled on the classroom floor.Scrolls and textmapping teach students to be strategic readers. The scroll shows them - graphically and concretely - a whole, comprehensible view of the text. As they become engaged in the process of mapping the scrolled text, they come to see - clearly and explicitly - the relationship between text structure, text organization, and meaning. Students learn how to recognize and use typographic and textual cues to guide their reading comprehension. These lessons can also be applied to the process of evaluating and refining their own written work.
  3. Scrolls and textmapping encourage students to develop active reading skills. They do this by physically involving students with the text. They accomplish this in two ways:
    • First, students are forced to move - to walk back and forth along the length of the scrolled text; to stand up, to lean over it and to move along and around it. Reading becomes a physical, as well as mental, act.
    • Second, the mapping of a text involves, by necessity, an extensive amount of marking - using pencils, pens, colored markers, highlighters, etc. The value of marking is that it requires that the student pick up a pencil or pen and physically interact with the text. Moreover, the unmarked text functions like a blank page in that the condition of being unmarked is both a clear sign that nothing has been done yet and a reinforcement of the message to the student that it is up to them to take marker in hand and start work. In short, marking forces students to think and to make decisions.
  4. Scrolls and textmapping enable comprehension to be linked directly, explicitly, and concretely to the text. This ensures that comprehension will be more reliable, accurate, and complete. This direct linkage enforces clarity - making explicit the distinction between prior knowledge, inferences and the like, and what the text actually says. They clearly illustrate the difference between those answers, inferences and interpretations which are anchored to the text, and those which are not. This is accomplished by two means:
    • First, Textmapping is practiced directly on the scrolled text. Teachers and students can work together directly on the text itself, using mapping [] techniques. As the text structure and text organization is revealed, illustrated, and clarified through mapping, the scrolled text [] and the map - which are one and the same - are converted into a visual schema that can be used to guide comprehension. Context and details are clearly identified, accurately described, and - most important - fully preserved and visable as a whole.

      Bullet point. Red arrow pointing to the right. This contrasts with diagram-based graphic organizers such as Semantic Mapping, Concept Mapping, and Story Mapping [], which are abstracted and recorded off of the text - for example, on a separate sheet of paper - thereby creating a new document that serves as an intermediary between text and reader. Semantic maps are a record of the reader's comprehension (or lack of it). It is not uncommon for them to have little to do with the text itself, and yet their form and spareness often makes it difficult for teachers to determine that there is a problem with comprehension of the text. Semantic maps, used as a comprehension tool, allow sloppy comprehension to slip through the cracks.

      Bullet point. Red arrow pointing to the right. This is not to suggest that sematic maps and other such graphic organizers do not have a place. Rather, scrolls and textmapping complement other graphic organizers by bridging the gap between an unread text and its corresponding abstracted diagram; they provide a transitional capability - one in which graphic organizer techniques are first applied directly to the text itself in a way that ensures comprehension that is accurate and complelte. This is a unique and valuable addition that greatly extends the graphic organizer toolbox.
    • Second, Textmapping is a true pre-reading technique. Teachers and students can begin the pre-reading process by focusing on typography and the big picture, rather than words and details. In essence, textmapping enables individuals to accomplish the initial steps of reading with help from concrete thinking skills and visual, spatial, tactile, kinaesthetic, and global learning abilities, and to thereby postpone the inevitable reliance on auditory abstraction (decoding and processing) - with it's attending opportunities for comprehension errors. This is especially helpful to individuals with reading disabilities, as well as being an effective means of making instruction in reading comprehension skills concrete, clear, and explicit for abled and disabled students alike.

      Bullet point. Red arrow pointing to the right. This contrasts with diagram-based graphic organizers such as Semantic Mapping, Concept Mapping, and Story Mapping [], all of which depend on auditory abstraction - i.e. as a practical matter, you can not create a Semantic Map of a book chapter until you have read the chapter. Textmapping, by comparison, can be used independently of any auditory abstraction.

      Bullet point. Red arrow pointing to the right. This is not to suggest that sematic maps and other such graphic organizers do not have a place; rather, that they are complementary approaches. Diagram-based graphic organizers can be used in combination with scrolls and textmapping to further increase the clarity of instruction.

      Bullet point. Red arrow pointing to the right. Textmapping shines a light on the pre-reading process. It focuses more attention on, and spends more time with, the text itself - lingering on the page, delaying abstraction, forcing readers to engage in a more careful in-context comprehension of both the big picture and the details, and enabling teachers to explicitly and systematically model comprehension processes.
  5. A textmap is a traceable visual record of an individual's thought process. The individual who creates a textmap is leaving a trail of graphic markings that can be followed - a record of his or her thoughts presented in the form of a map overlaid directly on the text in question. There are four benefits to this, each of which goes to the issue of monitoring:
    • First, students can see their own progress. This gives them a sense of accomplishment - in that they can see how much they have done, and how much they have left to do - and it helps them to identify areas of the text which may require more careful study. This goes to the question of self-monitoring and metacognitive skills.
    • Second, scrolls and textmapping enable teachers to explicitly, concretely, and in great detail show what comprehension is and how it can be achieved. Many students seem to think that comprehension is an event which somehow "happens" to them. Textmapping shows them a model of what the process of comprehension looks like. Textmapping shows them that comprehension is something that they make - that it requires careful thought and an active dialog with a text - and it shows them how they can master the skills needed for comprehension. This can be particularly helpful for students who have learning difficulties, but even successful readers can benefit from the clarity that textmapping can bring to the understanding of what comprehension is and how it can be achieved.
    • Third, students can learn from their peers. They can compare each other's textmaps; they can see how much work their peers have done, and they can see how their peers went about the process of comprehending the text. The differences between less-successful and more-successful reading approaches are explicitly and concretely illustrated, and thus can be discussed in greater detail and understood more completely. This contributes to the development of self-monitoring and metacognitive skills through cooperative learning.
    • Fourth, teachers can easily monitor students' work. Teachers can see who is - and who is not - making progress; they can easily spot students who are having difficulty and can quickly ascertain the problem. Students who claim (and probably believe) that they understand a reading assignment can be more effectively challenged and helped: specific problems can be explicitly and concretely identified by pointing to the visual record; fine distinctions or shades of meaning can be clearly identified and explored in greater detail; probing questions targeted directly to the student's needs are more easily posed when the teacher has the student's textmap to refer to; students can actually see their mistakes, and so they are more likely to learn from them. This goes to the question of teachers monitoring students' use of comprehension skills and strategies.
  6. Scrolls and textmapping accomodate a wide range of learning styles. In particular, peripheral vision and visual, spatial, tactile, kinaesthetic, and global learning abilities, none of which are of much value for reading books, are all very useful for reading scrolled texts. For more on this, see the second item in benefit #4, above, and the learning styles entry of our FAQ sheet.
  7. Scrolls and textmapping can be particularly helpful to individuals who have learning disabilities or attention deficits. These individuals, many of whom have visual impairments (i.e., visual tracking) and/or cognitive deficits (i.e., auditory-based decoding, memory, sequencing) often find the scrolled version of a text to be easier to work with because scrolls are more accessible to a greater range of senses and learning abilities. In short, scrolls provide a much better fit with the learning strengths of LD and ADD individuals than do books and book-bound marking strategies (also see benefit #6, above).

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