Scanning to Gain Reading Comprehension Skills

ESL Lesson Plan

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One of the most common mistakes students make in reading is to try to understand each and every word they read. The switch to reading in English leads them to forget important reading skills they've learned in their own native languages. These skills include skimming, scanning, intensive and extensive reading. Use this lesson plan to help remind students of these skills they already possess, as well as encourage them to use these skills in English.

Scanning is used to discover required information to complete a given task such as making a decision about what to watch on TV, or which museum to visit while visiting a foreign city. Ask students NOT to read the excerpt before they begin the exercise, but rather, to focus on completing the task based on what the question requires. It is probably a good idea to do some awareness raising of the various types of reading skills that they use naturally in their own mother tongue (i.e. extensive, intensive, skimming, scanning) before beginning this exercise.


Reading practice focusing on scanning


Comprehension questions used as cues for scanning a TV schedule




  • Do a short awareness-raising session by asking students how they go about making decisions based on schedules, short articles etc. Focus on whether they read every word and if the read in strict order when making such a decision in their own mother tongue.
  • Remind them that this process is the same in English and does not require that they understand every word perfectly.
  • Distribute comprehension questions and TV schedule to students.
  • Make a special point of asking students to complete the exercise by first reading the question and then scanning for the appropriate answer.
  • Ask students to use the TV schedule to answer the questions. To increase difficulty add a timing element (this should help students who insist on understanding every word to not do so).
  • Correct activity as a class.
  • Extend activity by bringing in a number of magazines concerning travel, entertainment or a similar activity and asking students to complete a given task — for example finding a destination they would like to visit or choosing a film they would like to see. Once again, ask students to do the exercise by scanning and not reading each word.

What's On?

First read the following questions and then use the TV Schedule to find the answers.

  1. Jack has a video - Can he watch both documentaries without having to make a video?
  2. Is there a show about making good investments?
  3. You are thinking about traveling to the USA for a vacation. Which show should you watch?
  4. Your friend doesn't have a TV but would like to watch a film starring Tom Cruise. Which film should you record on your video?
  5. Peter is interested in wild animals which show should he watch?
  6. Which sport can you watch that takes place outside?
  7. Which sport can you watch that takes place inside?
  8. You like modern art. Which documentary should you watch?
  9. How often can you watch the news?
  10. Is there a horror film on this evening?

TV Schedule


6.00 p.m.: National News - join Jack Parsons for your daily news roundup.
6.30: The Tiddles- Peter joins Mary for a wild adventure in the park.


6.00 p.m.: In-Depth News - In-depth coverage of the most important national and international news stories.


6.00 p.m.: Travel Abroad - This week we travel to sunny California!
6.30: The Flintstones- Fred and Barney are at it again.

7.00: Golf Review- Watch highlights from today's final round of the Grand Master's. 7.00: Nature Revealed- Interesting documentary taking a look at the microscopic universe in your average speck of dust.
7.30: Ping - Pong Masters- Live coverage from Peking.
7.00: Pretty Boy- Tom Cruise, the prettiest boy of them all, in an action packed thriller about Internet espionage.
8.30: ​Shock from the Past- This entertaining film by Arthur Schmidt takes a poke at the wild side of gambling.
9.30: It's Your Money- That's right and this favorite game show could make or break you depending on how you place your bets. 9.00: Tracking the Beast- The little understood wildebeest filmed in its natural surroundings with commentary by Dick Signit.
10.30: Nightly News- A review of the day's most important events. 10.30: Green Park- Stephen King's latest monster madness. 10.00: Pump Those Weights- A guide to successfully using weights to develop your physique while getting fit.
11.00: MOMA: Art for Everyone- A fascinating documentary that helps you enjoy the difference between pointilism and video installations. 11.30: The Three Idiots- A fun farce based on those three tenors who don't know when to call it quits.
12:00: Hard Day's Night- Reflections after a long, hard day. 0.30: Late Night News- Get the news you need to get a hard start on the upcoming day.
1.00: National Anthem- Close the day with this salute to our country.
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Scanning to Gain Reading Comprehension Skills." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). Scanning to Gain Reading Comprehension Skills. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Scanning to Gain Reading Comprehension Skills." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).