Skim and Slim Portions of a Novel

Skim and Slim Portions of a Novel


– In order to teach all
the reading standards, strategies, and skills, and apply them to a wide
variety of text types, the ELA teacher is often seeking ways to make the in-class novel move a little more quickly. That’s when I introduce them to the notion of reading, skimming, and slimming portions of a long text. Remember, we’re not teaching the text, we’re teaching standards, and the text is just a tool. So we want to start by acknowledging that all portions of
that text are not equal. We want to first identify
the most pivotal parts to the plot. Having read that novel numerous times, the typical ELA teacher can tell you the parts where characters are
introduced and described, where conflict is revealed, where rising action is building, where climax comes out, and then resolution falls from there. If we consider this visual graphic representing pages one
through say, 200 of a novel, and these longer lines
are the chapter breaks, then we want to identify
those pivotal portions of the plot. identify those excepts, whether they’re four or five pages, or a chapter and a half. Identify the parts that we
will closely read in class, every sentence, every
paragraph, every page. But remember, we’re not teaching the text, and all the parts aren’t equal. So those parts we read closely, carefully. We even re-read and take our thinking to the depth of close reading. I’d also identify the parts of the novel that have amazing craft: the word choice, the sentence structure. The author’s choices are powerful, and we can learn from them. We want to study those author choices. So again, mark those portions and plan to read them. Okay, so now with the rest
of the text in front of us, let’s consider if it has a movie version that we often show after
we’ve read the whole novel. What if we viewed portions of the movie in lieu of reading the print text? Identify the parts of the movie that are spot-on exact to the print text. Oh, I know the whole movie isn’t like the whole novel, but there are portions that are exactly the same. If I can identify the exact portions of the print text that mirror what happens
in the movie version, then I can watch those instead of reading all of
the sentences and paragraphs. Remember, we’re not teaching the text. We’re trying to get through the text and use the portions we can teach from. Therefore, I can slim the amount of time it would normally take to get through all of those other pages. Eleven pages of a character’s
nightmare in the novel can be demonstrated with a three-minute video
clip from the movie version. So imagine, we’re reading the text, We come to one of those portions when I can show the movie clip instead. We pause the print text,
I cue up the movie, and I tell the students, Hey, this actor is playing this character, and this actor plays this character. Let’s now “read” this multimodal text and answer the same questions I would have asked anyway. You always want to give
them a viewing purpose. Again, I want them leaning in, making inferences, taking notes, prepared to cite evidence. After the four-minute clip ends, I stop the movie, and we may return back to that print text and resume reading 11 pages further ahead. So with the pivotal plot parts being read, and the powerful craft
portions looked at carefully, and excerpts being slimmed to match the movie version, all the remaining portions I can skim. Often this includes the first
several pages of a novel, and then other parts, where we’re just connecting details to get to the essentials. When I skim portions, I tell
students we’re skimming them. I open my text, I put it
under the document camera, I project it for the class to see. And my finger touches every page. I’m pausing to point
out some of the details: This is what’s happening. This is what we found out. But remember, none of this is pivotal, or we would be reading it. Several pages on the setting or lots of background on
a character that, again isn’t necessarily vital, I could skim and much
more quickly summarize for my students. Remember, we’re not teaching the text. We’re teaching standards. The text is just a tool
that’s been chosen. So we want to spend
our precious, valuable, classroom instructional time reading text that allows us to teach those critical standards from, and the other portions, I can skim and slim to make them move a little faster.

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