Pre-reading tasks

On the first day of term, teachers from schools in my area attended a keynote address by John Munro, from the University of Melbourne. He talked about the distinction between comprehending and comprehension and how important it is for all students to be taught active reading skills. I was inspired to dig out a few ideas for pre-reading Tasks:

1. Why am I reading this? Establishing a purpose for reading directs reading towards a goal and helps focus attention. Purposes may come from teacher directed questions or outcomes, questions from class discussions or brainstorming, or from the individual student.

2. Before introducing the class to a new topic, or a text about a new topic, brainstorm prior knowledge. Using bubbl.us, the app ‘iBrainstorm’ or by referring to posters you already have in your classrooms, you can make reference to prior learning, helping students to identify what they already know about a topic before reading. This pre-reading task can help students to prepare for new vocabulary.

3. Introduce key vocabulary before beginning a new topic. Students can create definitions using their own words. Students with laptops could create, and simultaneously edit, a class dictionary in google docs. Year 7 classes could use iPads to create personalised dictionaries in Smartnote. This pre-reading task, vocabulary front loading, can help students to prepare for the demands of a new topic.

4. Develop pre-questions that you expect to be answered when reading:

Definition
What is….? Where does … fit? What group does … belong to?
Characteristics
How could we describe…? What does … look like? What are its parts?
Examples
What is a good example of …?
What are similar examples that share attributes but differ in some way?
Experience
What experience have we had with ….? What can we imagine about …?

5. Pictures and other visual material can activate prior knowledge.
Use the Internet to search for pictures related to the title/topic to help you to deliver visual images of what we are about to read.

6. Depending upon the content area, a discussion of the author of the particular work can be helpful to understanding. What is the author trying to say? What is her point of view and her reason for writing the particular work?

7. A discussion about the type of text can be useful – will there be statistics? Are there likely to be graphs? Will there be a great many dates? Will the piece of writing be persuasive? Evaluative? What are some of the language features/organizational features that we can expect to find?

8. Use a graphic organiser, to get students to think about their knowledge. KWL is a popular strategy. It consists of three steps for students to use with text:
What do I Know? What do I Want to learn? What did I Learn?

It is a useful strategy for group discussions. Many examples online exist, but essentially, you develop a three column sheet with each question in a column and students write in responses. For example:
What do I know What do I want to learn What did I learn

Alternatively, you could create a version in a poster form or use a google doc or padlet so that students can create a single chart that they all share and work on throughout a topic.

9. Before reading a chapter, survey the chapter and look at:
• the title, headings, and subheadings
• captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps
• review questions or teacher-made study guides
• introductory and concluding paragraphs
• summary

While surveying, ask questions. For example:
• Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions
• Read questions at the end of the chapters or after each subheading
• Ask yourself,
“What did my instructor say about this chapter or subject
when it was assigned?”
• Ask yourself,
“What do I already know about this subject?”

10. Read the end first, then ask students to predict the beginning

11. Pre-teach targeted background information,

12. Give students pre-reading summaries of the text,

13. Introduce key aspects of the text before students read them

I know, I know 13, but it is my lucky number!

Happy learning!

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