156: Five Pre-Reading Activities





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  1. Reading aloud
    • Focus: Building Enjoyment of Reading
    • Description
      • Teacher reads aloud short, ear-worthy passages
      • Individual students, pairs or small groups may read passages aloud
    • Why Use it?
      • Student experience powerful language about important ideas
      • Evoke time-honored experience of listening to stories
      • Helps students grasp big ideas and questions that make subjects meaningful
      • Draw students into school topics
      • When student read aloud – build text fluency and comprehension
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate texts
        • these cover key ideas in clear, vivid language
        • they involve beautiful brilliant content-specific language
        • Note – students might be able to understand higher than normal lexile texts when they read them aloud
      • Practice reading with energy, drama and vocal variety
        • Rule of thumb – read 5x before going public
      • After modeling read aloud several times, invite students to do some reading aloud on their own – individually, in pairs, or in small groups
  2. Front loading with Images
    • Focus: Visualizing Meaning
    • Description
      • students primed for upcoming unit by studying photographs or works of art that communicate upcoming settings, contexts, processes, problems, or people
      • teacher may encourage a deep study of image by revealing image in parts before showing the whole
    • Why Use it?
      • we are in competition with vibrant multimedia images
      • low floor tasks – everyone can play
      • build background knowledge and evoke curiosity
      • Common Core requires students to read visual images
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate images
        • build background knowledge
        • introduce subject
        • seek out dramatic, puzzling, surprising images
        • seek out one emblematic anchor image
        • assemble collection of 6-12 slides into a slide deck with NO CAPTIONS
      • Do not lecture through the slides.  Provide purpose and instructions:
        • Introduce purpose of images – to provide background knowledge of upcoming reading.
        • Instruct students to think aloud and talk aloud to the screen individually to describe what you’re seeing and thinking
        • Model how to think and talk aloud to the screen in response to an image
        • After talking aloud to the image, jot down words and phrases that cover highlights of what you said aloud
      • Conduct a close reading of Anchor Image
        • Present entire anchor image –  students write down every detail they notice
        • Mimic process of “rereading” by presenting anchor image in cropped sections – students continue to write down details they notice (1 min per section)
        • Present entire anchor image one more time – students continue to write down noticed details
      • Facilitate class discussion on images
        • What did whole set of pictures show?
        • What are the larger themes?
        • How do details contribute to understanding of larger themes?
      • Ask student to make predictions about what upcoming reading will be about based on images, image notes and discussions
    • Related reading
  3. Pre Reading Quiz
    • Focus: Connecting to and building background knowledge
    • Description
      • Trivia Quiz related to concepts and misconceptions in an upcoming reading
        • focuses on big ideas, concepts, surprising or puzzling info, controversial issues
    • Why Use it?
      • establish a tangible purpose of reading = compare what one knows to what’s in the reading
      • reading supports or challenges one’s positions
      • guide students to big ideas in the readings
      • reading becomes part of an ongoing conversations between students and the texts
      • help students think while they read
    • How it works?
      • Create 3-5 short questions or statements related to the text
        • use true/false, agree/disagree formats
        • effective questions post big open-ended questions or draw attention to curious or startling information
      • Students read related passage.
      • Discuss quiz with partners.
      • Provide time to write down justifications for responses.
      • Discuss quiz – note common agreements and disagreements with info in the text.
    • Related reading
  4. Vocabulary Predictions
    • Focus: Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Students are given list of vocabulary words and categories to sort them into.
      • They write a gist statement to summarize the words.
      • They asks questions they hope to learn from reading as a result of words they don’t know in the list.
    • Why Use it?
      • activate prior knowledge
      • call attention to key vocabulary words
      • use prediction to build active thinking about a topic before reading
      • sets a purpose for reading = discover meanings of confusing words
      • thinking about own questions gets students more engaged in the texts
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate list of words and categories to group them
        • 8-15 terms
        • some words students already know or can easily figure out
        • some technical terms
        • some terms connected to key concepts
        • select categorizing group names – examples: people, settings, causes, effects, etc
      • Use Think Aloud to model the processes of classifying terms and asking questions of the terms
      • Provide a few directions
        • Unknown pile is only for terms team has no idea about
        • Set expectations for gist statement (all or some of the words used)
        • Explain that if gist statements mismatches text it’s OK, but it’s important to note that expectations of text were not fully met.  Differences can highlight new lessons learned and surprises in text.
        • Note list of “to discover” questions inspired by the terms
      • Give students in groups time to following instructions
      • Small groups share their questions and groupings with the class
      • Read the texts and see if they answer the “to discover” questions
      • Discuss answered and unanswered questions
    • Variation (Quotation mingle)
      • Give students 8-15 sentences (quotes from the text)
      • Students make hypotheses about the text using the sentences
  5. Clustering
    • Focus: Visualizing Meaning
    • Description
      • Clustering – students create a 2-D map of ideas with connecting lines showing how they think ideas relate – good for pre-reading
    • Why Use it?
      • Access prior knowledge
      • Open up students to possibilities they were unaware of until they got started
    • How it works?
      • Using Think Aloud and drawing to model how to create a cluster
      • Write a central nucleus word at the center of the visual used for clustering
      • Students write relate terms, circle them and draw lines that represent how they are related to each other and the nucleus word
      • Students share parts of their clusters with teacher to create a class cluster
      • Have students read the text
      • Compare what students read to the relationships in their pre-reading cluster – what was the same and different


Pre-reading activities help teachers build and activate students’ prior knowledge so that they are well primed to make sense of texts.  These activities can engage students in reading, give purpose to their reading, build visual and mental maps of upcoming concepts, and pose questions to discover.  Using these strategies can make texts more accessible and more interesting to students and can help them to read texts more deeply.


Preparation Steps
  • Research texts that would be useful references for an upcoming project.
  • Decide which pre-reading strategies can be used to best highlight key ideas and terms in the text.  For example
    • Read aloud – texts with beautiful brilliant language
    • Front loading with images – texts with concepts with good visual representations
    • Pre-reading quiz – texts with controversial or surprising conclusions or many misconceptions
    • Vocabulary predictions – texts with a lot of vocabulary
    • Clustering – texts with a lot of interrelated ideas
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement pre-reading strategy that goes with text – be sure to model the strategy well using the think aloud strategy if students are using strategy for the first time
  • Use formative assessments to measure the impact of pre-reading activities on student learning through reading related texts and to assess whether or not students are enjoying and “getting” the strategy
  • Use formative assessments to fine tune strategies
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Supplement pre-reading activities with related Writing to Learn activities.
  • Incorporate effective and engaging pre-reading strategies into classroom routines.

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