Skim & Slim Portions of a Novel
QUESTION: Is there a way to speed up the reading of an in-class novel?
ANSWER: Standards require reading comprehension skills and strategies applied to various text types--novels, short stories, news articles, videos, etc. To find time to teach reading and apply it to so many different texts, ELA teachers are often seeking ways to make in-class novel reading move more quickly.
Rather than reading all pages with equal focus, utilize various reading speeds and mediums to pick up the pace without losing plot integrity.
Read essential portions.
Identify pivotal parts of the novel. Determine the excerpts where main characters are described, conflict is introduced, rising action is established, climax is reached, theme is revealed, and resolution is obtained. Read and analyze those portions in class, as these are essential to the novel.
In addition to key passages of plot, identify any excerpts with strong craft, exceptional word choice, and noteworthy literary devices. These can be closely read and analyzed for author techniques.
After pulling out the excerpts to read in class, now look for ways to make the "other portions" move more quickly. Determine if this novel or chapter book has a movie version. Rather than showing it after reading the print text, consider viewing portions in lieu of it.
Slim exact portions.
Although the entire movie is not identical to the novel, many parts are. If the clips match the text, the content is the same. The difference is, rather than reading numerous pages aloud, it is done with a couple-minute video. By "reading" the clip in lieu of every sentence, the teacher "slims" the time it takes to "get through" the text.
Don't consider this cheating or "watering down" the reading of a novel. Students are expected to view multimodal texts, make inferences, and cite proof for their thinking. Providing movie excerpts can achieve two goals at once--provide experience reading different mediums and move through an in-class novel faster.
To introduce these clips, read the novel up until the excerpt identified to "slim." Then, present the cued-up video, identifying which actors are playing which characters. Before hitting the play button, establish the viewing purposes. What should students be watching for? What questions should they be able to answer afterwards? What evidence should they be collecting? When the "slimmed" excerpt is done, then stop the video. Engage in class conversations about their inferences and evidence. Then return to the print text, skipping past those pages.
Skim the remaining portions.
With crucial story elements, well-crafted excerpts, and movie-replaceable portions noted, consider how best to handle the remaining pages. Rather than reading these non-vital pages and asking surface comprehension questions, consider skimming quickly as a means to getting to the next essential excerpt.
Project these pages of text and quickly move through the lines of text, pausing to point out key phrases and details to carry the story plot along. Summarize the gist of what's being described in detail. Plan ahead a succinct retelling of the text excerpt and what phrases will be pointed out. Then, when this lesser-important excerpt leads to a pivotal part, resume reading at a traditional pace.
Moving through a novel using this combination of reading, skimming, and slimming tends to increase engagement in students (and many teachers) and recaptures valuable instructional time. Many welcome the change of pace, not to mention the numerous reading standards that this strategy supports.
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