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How and When to Skim


ELA: Reading MS/HS/College Strategy


Processing Speed

How and When to Skim

If your student reads slowly or often takes longer than anticipated on reading assignments

Instruction And Practice

  1. Objective: Students will gain an understanding of when it is appropriate to skim text and when to read in depth.
  2. Sometimes skimming, or scanning a text for the key point, is sufficient and efficient depending on the assignment and the text. Guide students through the pointers on the next slide to help them consider when to skim versus reading for depth.

*print* Student Guide: When To Skim

  1. Ask Do Details Matter: Think of the assignment objective. If you are reading to learn a new concept or to appreciate a story, skimming is probably not a good idea. Alternatively, if you just need an overview or to get familiar, all the details are not important. Try skimming. Or, if you are reading for a single purpose (e.g. finding a specific detail) skimming might be the best option.
  2. Consider Author Style: Some authors are more repetitious than others, making the same point multiple times. As long as you understand, you can skip quickly through sentences that are repetitious or summarizing the same idea.
  3. For Lengthy Articles: Tackle with a purpose. Start by reading the first two paragraphs. Next, read only the first sentence of the next paragraphs. Finally, read the entire last two paragraphs. If you understand the main points, you might not need to read the entire article.
  4. Skimming Practice: Force yourself to read very quickly but without missing a line of text. In each line, pick up a few key words only. Try this for a few paragraphs and then evaluate to see if you were able to get a good general understanding. Did you understood the main idea or achieve the assignment objective? Then decide if you need to go back and read any part in depth, either right away or later when you have more time.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

You might be happily surprised to learn that your teachers don't always expect you to read in depth. Students might not know when to skim and when to read in depth. Developing the judgment of when to skim, or at least when to ask if they should skim, can save a significant amount of time and energy which can then be channeled into more high value work. Knowing when to skim might be particularly helpful for students with slower processing speed or weaker attention.