Previously On…

by Scott on May 10, 2008

I admit it. I’m a TV junkie. I like to think I watch in moderation, but I probably watch too much. I know that fact may seem to contradict what we’re advocating here, but I can’t help it. And I actually noticed something helpful about television a few weeks ago when Ana was explaining a reading strategy to me. The strategy we were discussing is summarizing. I’m not the reading expert, so I’ll let her take you through the specifics of summarizing, why it’s important, and how to employ it, but I quickly realized that it is a strategy used in television all the time.

Most of my favorite shows are running series like Lost that develop characters and stories over weeks and years. One thing every episode of these shows has in common is that they all begin with a “Previously on…” segment that summarizes what has happened so far. As Ana points out in her article on summarizing, there’s a very good reason for this–it gives us a chance to get caught up very quickly so we can pay attention and absorb the new material.

Again, I’ll leave the coaching of this strategy to Ana, but I thought I’d point out a way that this strategy is commonly used in another medium. I’ve always appreciated the “Previously on…” segments of television shows. Besides reminding me of what has happened in previous episodes, they’re also effective in setting the mood for what I’m about to watch. Whenever I pick up a book I’m working on, especially if it’s fiction, I almost always skim a few paragraphs I covered in my last reading session just to give myself a quick reminder of where I was and to get my mind back into story.

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