Skimming and Scanning

Everyone is raving about the new reading framework.

The reading framework: teaching the foundations of literacy is the latest guidance for schools to meet existing expectations for teaching early reading.

But there are some holes.

A couple of holes relate to skimming and scanning.

Where do we find references to these skills? Have they ceased to be important?

There is a section about recognising words ‘at a glance’ (page 59) but that’s about it and no mention of skimming.

As for scanning, help me out if you have found anything because I can’t see it.

These are both missing yet vital reading techniques for acquiring a basic reading competence.

Usually when skimming and scanning are taught in literacy lessons they are taught almost in the same breath despite being very different.

Traditionally, skimming relates to a superficial reading, not an in-depth reading. It’s like a bird’s-eye view of the material and is useful when you want to quickly gain an overview of a text.

Scanning refers to extracting certain specific information without reading through the whole text and can be especially useful when the students deal with tables, charts, and graphs.

But is this really scanning and have we been teaching ‘it all wrong’?

When we scan something then we look at or examine all parts of a ‘thing’ (an image or a text) intently and completely. We don’t miss anything out as that might be important (think of a CT scan).

Yet, in school, scanning means searching for particular information by locating and zooming in – that’s not a full scan.

Scanning is the opposite of skimming because when we skim we read quickly, noting the main points, by glancing at something casually and quickly rather than thoroughly. Scanning has to involve looking at all parts of a text carefully in order to detect some feature.

Is this how we teach children to skim and scan in school? Probably skimming but my guess is that scanning is not taught in the way it should be – thoroughly.

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