We’ve been working with nonfiction texts this winter, and so I was doing my due diligence on better ways to teach students how to read and comprehend these texts.
For an experienced reader, navigating nonfiction is not a daunting task, but imagine for a moment what it must be like to see all the busyness that makes up a nonfiction text for elementary students. Text features – captions, text boxes, maps, labels, diagrams – a less expert reader has a difficult time capturing the flow of text. The difficulty of this really wasn’t brought home to me until I started text mapping with my fourth grade students.
A challenge for my students has been that either the text is so fractured because students stop to attend to the features as they try to read the text or the features are skipped entirely. For my students, that means they are missing important pieces of information. And in testing situations, students often miss something nuanced that ends up in a test item. I knew I needed some new strategies that would help kids – and me – sort out how to read nonfiction in a more methodical, systematic manner.
And so with the help of Google, I happened upon text mapping, an innovation created by Dave Middlebrook.
One of the biggest advantages to implementing text mapping strategies was that I noticed how almost immediately my students could follow the flow of the actual text. Since the visual and textual features that supported their reading could be segregated away from the flow of words, the whole reading made more sense to them. They were more able to follow the flow of the words and then go back to pick up more information using those visual and textual features. For a more detailed version of the advantages of text mapping, be sure to read this section from the Textmapping Project Page.
We used the scroll strategy in my classroom for several iterations; however, this being test prep season, I’ve moved away from a physical scroll to adapting text maps to the normal page formats. Also, with a nod to prepping for state testing, we needed to invent black and white coding as colored pencils, highlighters, and the like are not allowed. While some of the impact of coding is lost when color coding features is removed, the supporting features are still called out from the text. And students are still able to follow a logical flow of text and text features.
For elementary level teachers and more ideas about using text mapping, check out Classroom 2.0.