Pre-reading strategies facilitate comprehension when reading. They work because they establish related prior knowledge that students can bring to bear in order to understand information in a text.
Here are some pre-reading strategies to try in your classroom:
1. Give students the title of a text or a topic and ask them to work in pairs to generate a list of words that they think they might encounter when they read the text.
If you think that their prior knowledge is limited, you can provide a list of words from which they can choose.
Combine suggested words into a mega class list. While doing this, get students to explain why they think their words might be in the text. This not only helps to build vocabulary, but also to share the combined knowledge.
2. When starting a new topic that will require a knowledge of specialist vocabulary, provide students with an electronic list of key words. Include ones that you don’t expect they will know.
Ask them to work individually to sort the words into three groups: those they know well, those they’ve perhaps heard before but are not sure of, and those they don’t know.
Then tell students to work in pairs to discuss their lists and work out the meanings of words that they don’t know or are unsure of. Their aim is to move their ‘don’t know’ words and their ‘not sure’ words into the ‘know’ group.
Depending in their progress, you might ask pairs to join with another pair and to repeat the process.
When students have moved the vast majority of their words into the ‘know’ group, ask them to pair with a new partner and ‘test’ each other on the word meanings.
Be prepared to help if necessary.
A whole class session can then identify any words still left in the ‘don’t know’ or ‘unsure’ groups.
Finally, provide students with a text that uses this vocabulary. Ask them to read it individually and test for comprehension either orally or by providing a targeted activity.
3. To encourage students to think about the content of a text, and to establish prior
knowledge, design an Anticipation Guide.
An Anticipation Guide is a series of statements related to ideas found in the text. Each one is preceded (and followed) by an Agree/Disagree choice. (Or Plus/Minus; Yes/No; True/False)
For example, in a text on Dinosaurs, some of the statements might be:
Agree/Disagree All dinosaurs had very small brains. Agree/Disagree
Agree/Disagree Paleontology is the name given to the study of fossils. Agree/Disagree
Students circle their choice of Agree/Disagree before reading the text and then again after they have finished. In this way, they – and you – can see what they have understood from their reading.
4. Other pre-reading strategies include brainstorming to create a class concept map on the topic; completing a KWL chart; sharing and discussing related visuals; designing the questions to which students would like to find answers in the text that they are about to read.