Cheryl Sigmon

Teaching Literacy
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Textmapping: Where the Old Becomes New Again

Cheryl explains how textmapping on paper scrolls is an effective graphic organizer that assists in teaching reading.
by Cheryl Sigmon
Regular contributor to the Gazette
June 1, 2008

Who would ever have thought that scrolls might be revived as a modern approach to teaching students valuable elements of printed text? No doubt, many of you have discovered textmapping as an exciting, new approach to reading—an approach that oddly enough had its origins in ancient Egypt. Textmapping is perhaps better described as a tool for teaching text features that enables students of all grades and ages to experience reading in a way that is extremely hands-on and visual for them.

Long, long ago, as the first known form of editable text, scrolls provided a setting for handwritten text on sheets of papyrus or parchment that were glued together in a continuous roll. Parchment scroll used by Israelites after Sinai was the first use of scrolls in the recording of literature before bound books with pages were invented by the Latins in the first century. (Wikkipedia)

Now, with the work shared by David Middlebrook, many of us have discovered the benefits of the occasional use of scrolls in our classrooms. Of course, our scrolls are not handwritten. Rather, they are pages of text reproduced on the copy machine and taped or glued together so that the pages are arranged vertically. Why would we go to the trouble to do this when the text is already neatly arranged in a bound book? There are many reasons. We’ll explore a few in this article.

Over the past year, I’ve been exploring textmapping in many different formats and in many different classrooms to get a feel for the scope of its use. So far, its applications have seemed limitless. I first used it exclusively with informational text but immediately saw the potential it held for teaching different aspects of all genres—not just informational text, but fiction, poetry and drama as well. (I should mention that reader Joy Widmann nudged me to make some of these discoveries as she shared her successes with me.) Within the genres, I’ve used it to identify everything from characters and setting in fiction to text features like headings, subheadings, illustrations and captions in informational text. I’ve used it successfully to have students discern the point of view of a piece as well as to discover for themselves the rhythm of poetry without benefit of all the work having been done for them by the poet.

Basically, for those of you who have not been textmapping in your classrooms, scrolls are made of the text you plan to use. You don’t do this with all text—only the occasional piece that needs analysis. Starting with informational text is a good idea—a chapter of a social studies or science book works well. Students work in small groups to assemble their own scrolls and then learn to mark the scrolls, using colored markers with certain colors matching certain elements of text. For example, students may be told to box in the entire chapter in the color orange; to circle the headings in blue and to box in the section that corresponds with the heading also in blue; to highlight the vocabulary words in yellow; to box in the illustrations and captions in grey, and the whole text flow is marked in black to ensure that students see how the words flow around pictures and borders, etc. The markings are extensive but critical to having students understand how text and its enhancing features are interrelated. (By the way, scrolls for poems are generally made in continuous lines of text that students must cut into lines based only on students’ feel for the rhythm and meaning.)

Before witnessing students as they marked chapters of text, I had not realized just how disconnected students are from the previous page of text as they flip to the next page. After all of my years in classrooms, it was enlightening to me that marking scrolls could help students make connections they had not previously been able to make before seeing the text and its features in linear fashion. Suddenly, students understood that… oh, this picture matches with the information contained in this particular heading, and this information is actually part of the introduction to the whole chapter, and this little section is not part of this subheading but is, instead, an interrupter to the flow of the text. They mark it, and they GET IT!

Another reason for going to the trouble to make scrolls is that students get kinesthetically involved with the text and its features. They can stand on the beginning, the middle and the end rather than only telling you where they think these parts are. They can stand on the text where the setting changes. They can stretch out on the floor with their scrolls or stand at the bulletin board where the scroll might be tapped. They move, discuss, draw, and talk. They move, and they THINK! It’s as engaging as instruction can be. Is this good for special needs students, those identified with ADD or ADHD, those who need movement to learn, those who need some positive stimulation? Absolutely!

Within this short article, maybe all I’ve done has been to whet your appetite for trying textmapping. If so, you’ll want to go to Middlebrook’s website to read more (www.textmapping.org). Give it a try in your classroom. I can promise you won’t be sorry. With a little copy budget, some sets of colored markers, some tape, and a desire to try something new, you’ll see something old like scrolls bring some new enthusiasm into your classroom!

Happy reading! ------------ Cheryl



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About Cheryl Sigmon...

Cheryl Sigmon has been an educator for nearly 30 years as a classroom teacher, a Dept. of Ed. language arts consultant, and currently as a seminar presenter, trainer and consultant in schools and districts around the US and Europe. She owns her own consulting firm, Sigmon & Associates, Inc., that brokers consulting services. She is co-author with Pat Cunningham and Dottie Hall of the bestselling Teacher's Guide to Four-Blocks and author of Modifying Four-Blocks for Upper Grades. Also, she is the author of numerous other professional books on literacy, including a writing mini-lesson series, Just-Right Writing Mini-Lessons (grade 1, 2-3, 4-6) and her newest comprehension mini-lesson series, Just-Right Comprehension Lessons (grades 1-6) with Scholastic Publishing Co.

Visit Cheryl's website at http://www.cherylsigmon.com.

On a personal note, she and her husband, Ray, live in SC, where they enjoy their stateís beautiful beaches and spend time with their three daughters, two grandchildren, and a multitude of grand-dogs and grandĖcats!


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