Monday, December 7, 2009

Improving Comprehension: Map Making

The need for 'deep' reading

As I said in my first post in this series on 'Improving Comprehension', we need to encourage ‘deep’ reading. For example, with the reading of literature we want children not only to be able to read the words and follow a basic narrative plot, we want them " grasp the richness of characterization, the devices the author uses to create mood and tension, the intent and purpose of the writer and the language devices employed; all the while being moved by the text and able to reflect and respond critically to it."

I also suggested in the first post (citing Corcoran & Evans, 1987) that one helpful way to do this is by using a framework that targets some of the major categories of mental activity that relate to the reading of literature:
Picturing and imaging - developing a rich mental picture.
Anticipating and restrospecting - predicting upcoming events, or reflecting on the ideas in the book.
Engagement and construction – becoming emotionally involved in the text, identifying with characters and situations.
Valuing and evaluating - making judgements about a text and its worth, as well as applying their own value judgements to the events and situations that unfold.
In this post I want to look at mapping, which I have also written about in my book 'Pathways to Literacy' (here).

The Purpose of Maps for Reading

My first post on 'Improving Comprehension' was concerned with ‘Sketch to Stretch’ (Cairney, 1990). This strategy involves asking children to sketch in response to reading, hearing or even viewing a story (here). The strategy of 'Map Making' also involves drawing and similarly helps the reader to build a rich mental picture as they read and to engage more deeply with the text. More specifically it helps the reader to:
  • gain a clearer sense of the setting;
  • engage more deeply with the plot; and
  • establish more clearly the sequence of events and recall them in greater depth.
How to use the strategy

Mapping can occur during and after reading. Some books also include their own maps that are designed to help the reader connect the events of the story to space. For example, 'Watership Down', 'The Hobbit' (see opposite) 'The Sign of the Seahorse' and 'My Place' to name just a few. The latter uses maps on every page to help the reader build a richer understanding of the important issues that the book raise about Indigenous Australians (see my previous post on this book HERE).

Getting readers to draw maps can be done at varied points in the reading process:
You can show readers a map before they read the story and briefly talk about the story's setting.
You can ask your children to draw a map after the reading to help them recall the story and integrate elements of the plot.
You can ask your children to draw a map or plan after the reading and then have them use it to explain what the story was about.
The example below (also reproduced in my book 'Pathways to Literacy') was drawn by a year 6 child part way through the reading of Roald Dahl's biography 'Boy: Tales of Childhood'. The mapping strategy was used after my students had read the chapter titled 'The magic island' which tells of a journey by boat from Newcastle upon Tyne to Norway. After reading the chapter I asked my students to draw a map of the journey to help them recall the details. What the drawing shows is just how detailed this child's recall was and how well it enabled the reader to recall not just the setting but the journey as well.

Summing up

Mapping is a helpful way to encourage readers to gain a rich impression of the setting and in the process, to recall the essential details of the story.

Related Posts

I’ve written extensively about comprehension in my various books (for example here and here) and in articles in academic journals.

My previous post on 'Sketch to Stretch' (here).

All previous posts on comprehension (here)


Anna said...

Thank you. I love any new ways to help engage with text. On a slightly different tangent, I have found that mind maps linking the ideas and common themes that come out of a piece of text very useful for myself and children.

PlanningQueen said...

Thanks for sharing this strategy Trevor. I will try this out with my boys!

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks Anna. Yes mind maps work well, I might do this at some stage. Thanks also Planning Queen, let me know how you get on with the strategy. Trevor