In anticipation of long reading passages on standardized tests, some teachers are naturally concerned with how their lower, slower, and/or unmotivated readers will perform. One simple strategy to support these students is to teach them how to skim. However, skimming is not reading faster; it’s reading more efficiently. Skimming involves reading key portions of a passage to glean the gist.
Teach skimming using informational text first.
After reading these selective portions carefully, students are prepared to navigate the test questions. Although some questions require students to read body paragraphs, they now know which paragraph contains the specific details they need.
Unlike informational text, narrative paragraphs don’t follow a predictable pattern. (Sometimes they are extra-long and descriptive. Other times they may be one-sentence dialogue exchanges.) In addition, since stories follow a plot exposition map, comprehending the gist requires students to discover the conflict, climax, and conclusion. This requires a different skimming strategy.
It should be noted that skimming is not a permanent substitute for a thorough reading of the text. But, on time-sensitive tasks like standardized tests, some readers need alternative strategies to increase their likelihood of getting through all the material.