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

Mapping a Scroll

Bullet point Mapping is a specific form of marking that focuses on describing text features in spatial terms. Most text marking techniques are extractive; they focus on details - keywords and phrases, for example. Mapping is descriptive; it focuses on context - the visual patterns of chunks and sub-chunks of information that are formed by details and the context that surrounds them. By way of metaphor, marking sees the trees; mapping sees the forest.

Bullet point The value of mapping is that it enables comprehension to be modeled in great detail. It makes the structure of information explicit and conspicuously clear. In essence, it is the illustration of comprehension. It provides an effective way of showing students what good readers do to build good comprehension.

Bullet point The first step in mapping a scroll is to decide what it is that you wish to accomplish. What is your instructional goal? Is there important information that you want your students to understand? Are there strategies or techniques that you wish to model for the class? Is your goal to...

Bullet point Once you have completed the first step and you know what you need to accomplish, the remaining steps are very simple. In general, you will follow a three-step process:

1. Identify features that are relevant to your purpose. Think about their significance to your purpose.

Drawing of an scroll with arrows drawn pointing to each of the headings.

You - and your students - will have a much easier time recognizing and identifying features on a scroll. You will be surprised by the difference; features seem to pop out at you, and the purpose and significance of different features will become instantly obvious.

2. Mark them.

Drawing of a scroll with each heading highlighted and circled.

It is important that you actually mark the features. Simply noticing a feature is not sufficient. Students - and teachers - who are just beginning to learn about Textmapping commonly are lazy about marking; and it shows. Once you have practiced Textmapping for a while, you will understand just how direct is the connection between marking and active reading. You will find that the more you mark, the more actively-engaged you will become with the text.

3. Mark their areal extent. Stand back and look at what you have done. In the example below, notice that the sections are now more clearly distinguished. You can instantly see which sections are longer. This, in turn, provides useful information about how the illustrations relate to the flow of ideas in the text.

Drawing of a scroll with a box drawn around each section. Illustrates how drawing a box around each section makes it easier to see at a glance how the sections compare in terms of size and typographic context.

This marking step is critical. Many students have commented that as soon as they draw a box around an illustration, or a section, or the answer to a question, that chunk - in their words - "stops moving," and "is a lot easier to find." In essence, what they are saying is that drawing a box around chunks of information accomplishes two things. First, it says, "Everything in here goes together." Second, it defines in spatial terms how the boxed-in chunk relates to the other chunks around it, as well as to the text as a whole. Many students find this very helpful. It defines a text in simple, graphic terms - in a way that is explicit and concrete. In effect, it says, "These are the pieces, and here's how they fit together."

Try applying the active reading and metacognitive strategies that you already know and teach. Use these strategies to guide and inform your marking activities.
For example, try using SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review). Notice how different SQ3R feels when practiced on a scroll! Notice how being able to see the entire text changes the process for you - how it makes things explicit and concrete. Notice how standing and moving around changes the way that you interact with the text - how it contrasts with sitting still to read a book.

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