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Why You Should Try Text Mapping With Your Class

Tracy Potash

Editor's note: If they're like us, your teens are eager to dive right into a new magazine the second they get it. However, some research suggests that pre-reading activities can make a huge difference when it comes to student comprehension. Tracy Potash--one of our fantastic teacher advisers and a language arts intervention teacher from Pennington, New Jersey--shares how she used one such pre-reading activity to expand on the Choices story, "The League of Extraordinary Losers."


It might sound crazy, but pre-reading activities are perhaps even more important than the actual reading of an article or document. That's because they're all about considering what you bring to the text as a reader--from your personal experiences to your prior knowledge on the subject matter. Even if you're not a language arts teacher, I think you'll find that this technique can play a pivotal role in your students' understanding of class materials!

Text mapping is one of my favorite pre-reading strategies. The idea is to think of the article like a scroll, where everything can be seen in one visual scan going from left to right. That makes it easier for students focus on the visual topography, the author's thought process, organization of ideas, and the big picture. (For more on the text mapping strategy, try and this super helpful guide to text mapping.)

Key Skills:

  1. Integration of knowledge and ideas: interpretation of information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively and explain how the information contributes to the understanding of the text
  2. Comprehension and collaboration: engage effectively in a range of collaborative activities and discussions, building on others' ideas and expressing their own
  3. Vocabulary acquisition and use: determine or clarify the meaning of unknown words/phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting reference materials
  4. Language: use words and phrases to convey ideas precisely


  • The Choices article, "The League of Extraordinary Losers(or any other article you want to discuss!)
  • Copies of a text mapping color key (Mine is pictured below, and you can get more info about making one here.)
  • Colored markers/pencils/pens
  • Copies of a non-fiction text features guide (I purchased mine here.) 



The Steps:

Step 1: Students watched a short video on nonfiction text features.

Step 2: Students were given a scrolled photocopy of "The League of Extraordinary Losers," as well as a nonfiction guide and a text mapping color key.

Step 3: We discussed the importance of pre-reading, how the visual information (text features) helps to contribute to the meaning of the text, and the advantages of seeing the article in its entirety.

Step 4: I demonstrated how to map a text, and then students were partnered up and given their materials to begin the text mapping process. Students moved around the scrolled articles while discussing, circling, and highlighting all the features according to the key.



Step 5: Scrolls in hand, students reconvened on the carpet and we discussed features that posed some difficulty to identify. We also talked about how visual information presented in a scroll format helped to identify the author's thought process and her organization of the material.

Step 6: I introduced the idea of a visual summary. Students were given the opportunity to use all the text features that they just mapped and choose 10-20 vital words seen during the mapping activity to summarize the visual information. They came up with the following words and phrases:

  • Extraordinary
  • Losers
  • Beyonce, Michael Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Lady GaGa, Steven Spielberg
  • Famous fails
  • Opportunities
  • Grit
  • Perseverance
  • Accidental inventions
  • Failing up
  • Reflect
  • Goal
  • Act

Step 7: Lastly, we discussed ways to transfer this pre-reading strategy to other classes, as well as using this technique for studying non-fiction texts at home.




Text mapping does require a decent amount of preparation, but it is totally worth all the time and effort you put into it once you see how the sequence of events helps to solidify students' understanding of the topic. Activities that include movement, color, and high interest topics are almost always a hit with the students. And the best part is, this is all in the pre-reading stage! All those connections made and the article itself hasn't even been read yet. Now that's a fabulous technique to increase comprehension, differentiate according to learning styles, collaborate with peers, and encourage focus!


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