Scrolls and Textmapping -- for Strategies and Content Instruction


From time to time I post about my work on comprehension and strategies instruction.  Here is something that might pique your interest:

Uploaded image from Dave Middlebrook

The image is cropped here.  You can see the full image here:

The photo shows a white board at the end of a college-level Educational Psychology class.

In this example, I walked the students through the process of surveying the chapter (SQ3R) in preparation for reading the chapter on their own.  At the bottom of the white board in the photo, you will see a paper scroll of the chapter.  Above the scroll is a map.  The map tracks the scroll, and shows the breakdown of sections and topics.  Everything is much clearer to students when presented this way.  We get more done -- and we get to go much deeper.

As is the case with any snapshot taken at the end of an hour-long class, the shapshot fails to capture the sometimes wandering and convoluted process that led to the end-view that you see.  During the class, both the chapter structure and content were discussed in great detail, as were a number of strategies for comprehending the content.  As the discussion progressed, the map evolved -- and often changed.  The students were prompted to discover the chapter's structure as well as the various pathways through the text -- to...

  • ask (and find the answers to) questions

  • make (and test) predictions

  • draw (and challenge and revise) inferences

  • connect information across the chapter as well as to outside readings

  • determine importance

  • summarize and synthesize.

They did all this BEFORE reading the chapter -- which is to say that we spent the entire class prereading (the Surveying and Questioning parts of SQ3R) the chapter.  It was an intensive process.  When they left class, they were ready to read the chapter through on their own.

The goal of this kind of instruction is to get students to the point where they can do this kind of intensive pre-reading (thinking, strategizing, and planning) without in-class help.  It is a long process, and really has to happen across the curriculum, in all subject areas in which textbooks and tradebooks are important sources of information.  One of my inspirations for this work is Mortimer Adler's classic, "How to Read a Book".  It's old and cranky (by internet standards), but a must-read.

Scrolls and textmapping comprise a way of presenting and working with text content that is richly multisensory and absolutely explicit -- and by "explicit", I am referring to the original meaning of the word, which is, quite literally, "unrolled", "fully-revealed", and "wide-open to understanding" (from ex + plicare).  You simply cannot get more explicit than an unrolled scroll!

Added to this is textmapping: The process of mapping the text is easy for students to follow.  It is active and very engaging.  Most important, it strongly reinforces the instructor's efforts to share his/her thoughts and thinking process (think-alouds).  The net effect -- and this is important -- is that strategies for learning replace content as the centerpiece.  This how it should be.

This is a kind of instruction that many college students desperately need (and that middle and high school students should be getting, in preparation for college).

No other book form -- ancient or modern, print or digital -- can match the unrolled scroll's powerful instructional benefits.  Scrolls are uniquely suited for classroom instruction.

More information:

I hope that you will try this in your classrooms, share it with your colleagues, and post your comments or questions here (if you have any).




Dave Middlebrook
The Textmapping Project
A resource for teachers improving reading comprehension skills instruction.   |   Please share this site with your colleagues!
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