More pre-reading strategies

I’ve blogged previously on pre-reading strategies. Here are some more.

  • Ask students to make predictions about the likely content of a text by examining
    – the title (eg of a newspaper report, magazine article, short story, poem, film)
    – elements of the cover such as font size and style and photographs (eg of a book, magazine or video) You could ask students to explain the reasons for their wide reading choice, based on an examination of the book cover.
    – diagrams and captions (in instructional or informative text selected from a subject area other than English)
    – photographs (accompanying feature articles, news reports, web pages)
    – headlines (of newspaper or magazine articles)
    – headings (in informative or instructional brochures and on web pages)
  • Brainstorm (use an online tool such as what students already know about the topic of, for example, a non-fiction text. As a class, draw up a list of questions that the text might be able to answer, thus providing a focus for their meaning.
  • Ask students to predict likely key terms for an text on a given topic eg an article from a sporting magazine or a website. Discuss the meaning of these terms.
  • Ask students to make hypotheses about the author’s purpose in writing a particular text eg to present information, to entertain, to persuade.
  • Discuss with students the likely audience for a text.  How might a knowledge of that audience influence the content and the language used by the author?
  • Analyse linguistic structures and features of a variety of diagrams, especially those to be found in nonfiction books and online, to ensure students understand the conventions involved in constructing and reading visual representations. (For example, graphs of various kinds, flow charts and infographics.)
  • Discuss the ways in which students will need to approach the reading of a text, depending on the purpose in reading eg
    – read very carefully in order to remember the content for later recall;
    – read for pleasure, not worrying about how much is remembered;
    skim a text in order to gain a general impression of what it is about and to decide whether or not it will be useful for a given purpose eg providing information for a research project
    scan a text in order to find specific information, perhaps in response to comprehension questions

    Encourage students to articulate why they are reading and provide them with opportunities to read for a variety of purposes.



What are pre-reading strategies?

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.