SCANNING: A Comprehensive Guide on Teaching Reading by Scanning.

SCANNING: A Comprehensive Guide on Teaching Reading by Scanning.

Skimming and Scanning

Teach 'Intensive Reading for Comprehension’ and Other Comprehension topics and activities by imparting these valuable reading skills to the students and classes with Comprehension topics.


In Scanning, the following aspects are covered:
  •    Introduction.
  •    Steps in Scanning.
  •    Examples and uses of Scanning.
  •    Advantages of Scanning.
  •    Tasks and exercises on Scanning.

The aim of this part is to discuss different types of reading skills with students before actual and accurate reading of the texts.
Both Skimming and Scanning are speed-reading techniques but each one has its own purposes and steps to be followed when reading.
So as to set the arena for other related upcoming sub topics and other reading activities and to clearly distinguish between various types of reading, students should be introduced to these types of reading first.
Important to The Teachers: Before Teaching Reading Intensively for Comprehension, it is a good approach to learn these two types of reading and what they contain. This will help the students to be equipped with quick approaches of reading before intensive reading of texts.

Scanning is a reading method that covers a great deal of material in order to locate a specific fact or piece of information. It specifically involves locating specific information in a text. Scanning reading is very useful for finding a specific name, date, statistic, or fact without reading the entire article.

Skimming and Scanning have one thing in common, and that is, they are all speed-reading techniques. The big difference between SKIMMING and SCANNING is that Skimming aims for getting a general picture of a text WHILE Scanning aims for getting specific facts quickly.

Steps in Scanning a Text.
The following are the steps involved in scanning a text:
  •   Keep in mind what you are looking for. Keep or hold an image or word you are looking for in your mind and it will be more visible than other surrounding words or images.
  •   Keep in mind in what form the information or fact you are looking for will appear. It might be in form of numbers, words or images.
  •   Analyse the content you are looking for before you start scanning. If what you are looking for is common you may be able to scan a text in a single search. But if what you look for is difficult to find, skimming method might be applied first so as to get it soon.
  •   Let your eyes run rapidly over several lines of print or a page at a time.
  •   When you find the sentence that has the information you seek, read the entire sentence.

Examples & Uses:
  •   It is usually used in timetables, charts, etc.
  •   It is used when the reader wants to search what interests him or her. For example, a tourist can scan the guide book to see which site he/she might want to visit.
  •   Scanning by passing your eyes quickly across the sentences help to get just a simple piece of information.
  •   It is used to look up a word in a dictionary or index.
  •   It is used to check details or prices in a catalogue.
  •   It is useful also when a reader check what time his/her programme is on TV.
  •   To find an address or a phone number in a directory or phonebook.
  •   It is used when you pick out the website you want from options on a Google search.

  •   Scanning saves time.
  •   It is the quick way to get the specific information about something.
  •   In scanning, a reader must be willing to skip over large sections of text without reading or understand them.
  •   Scanning can be done at 1000 or 1500 or more words per minute. 

Scanning is slow when the reader reads something on the computer’s screen. “Interestingly, research has concluded that reading off a computer screen actually inhibits the pathways to effective scanning and thus, reading of paper is far more conducive to speedy comprehension of texts”.

When applied frequently, these tasks are good in making students be familiar with reading by scanning:
  •  Task 1: Give students a map. Tell them to scan it and give you the information you have told them to present after scanning.
  •  Task 2: Newspaper quiz. Divide your class into small groups and give each group a newspaper (or, at least one or two pages from a newspaper). Ask them to devise a quiz for the other groups in the class. They have to write five to ten questions based on facts they find in their newspaper or section of newspaper. They then exchange newspaper and find the answer to the questions as quickly as possible. 
  • Discuss with your students the value or otherwise of doing more scanning activities in class. Try to encourage them to apply the technique whenever they read material that needs to be scanned for information rather than read intensively.
  •  Task 3: Examples that demand “scanning” you can find in Peter May: Knockout; Oxford: You are going to read an article about………. Choose from one of the answers. P38.
  •  More examples: We will look at four examples in which students are asked to read a text to extract specific information. An important feature of this type of skill is that students should see the questions, etc, they are going to answer before reading the text. If they do this it will be possible for them to read in the required way; they should scan the text only to extract the information the questions demand.

·        Yes/No questions. Here a teacher can supply Yes/No questions to the students. These are questions that mostly require short answers of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ such as ; Can Luth jump? Is John a farmer?, etc. Then, the teacher can give the text to students that they will read and answer these questions.
·        Open – ended questions. This includes activities like: Finding a book. Here students are allowed to go to the library and find a book of their interest. Set the questions like: What is the title of the book? What is the author’s name? What is the name of the publisher? When was the book published? How many pages are there in the book?. After these questions, students are now given the work to read the book each one has selected in order to answer the questions. They should do this as quickly as possible.

Resources taken from:
  •         Tim Bowen and Jonathan Marks (undated) ‘Inside Teaching’, p 123.
  •         Penny Ur (1996) A course in language teaching.
  •         Reading and Study Skills Lab: ‘Skimming and Scanning’; SOA- Seek Optimum Skills, Anne Arundel Community College. At
  •         Skimming and Scanning;

Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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