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Strategy Toolbox: Before Reading
General Pre-reading

Preview Text
Previewing textbooks with students prior to assigning reading can make a real difference in their comprehension. While previewing, share with your students how you would read the text. Are there some areas to ignore? Are visuals extra or are they important to understanding concepts? Is there a summary at the end of the chapter that may provide background knowledge if read before reading the chapter?

Textbook Scavenger Hunt
This is a type of textbook previewing. You can create a series of questions to guide students through their textbooks. Creating this scavenger hunt early in the term can guide students to noticing features in their textbook that they would oftentimes overlook.

Establish Purpose
This idea seems superfluous, however, many teachers overlook this simple before-reading strategy. Giving students a real reason to read something for class can make a difference in their comprehension. The clearer the purpose is the more they can focus their reading and understanding. “Read chapter two” vs. “Read chapter two to find out…” or “Read chapter two to be able to…” offers a subtle change that makes a big difference in the results.
Active Comprehension
The teacher reads a portion of the text and then asks leading questions such as: “What might happen if…”, “What would you like to know more about…” or “What do you already know about…
.” This interactive exchange could take the form of a discussion, or students could break into small groups or partners and write their answers.

Sometimes it is effective to confront students with a problem or issue that the reading will help them solve or better understand.

Anticipation Guides

Many teachers create quizzes for students to complete after they’ve read something. This strategy is to give the students the quiz before they read. The most basic is a simple series of true/false statements. Students complete the guide either independently or with a partner(s). There are many take offs on this basic idea:

  • agree/disagree;
  • ranking scales (e.g., 1-10, “How sure are you of your answer?”)
  • “Stand Where you Stand” – students move about the room physically to stand where they think the right answer is (one side of the room for true the other for false).

Students read to find out how accurate they were. This becomes a natural motivator. The important part of this is collecting the evidence for their final answer.

Read Aloud
Many teachers have been surprised at the effect this strategy has on high school students’ level of interest. The instructor brings in a newspaper article, children’s book, short story, song lyrics, etc., to introduce the topic to be read. The brief time spent reading aloud stimulates discussion, generates background knowledge and motivates students to read. In many classrooms, students begin to bring in materials to read aloud!

This is a great strategy to use to allow your struggling readers to hear the information that would be above their reading level. They will also experience the new vocabulary.

Bring a Thing
Example: Students were reading about Bernoulli’s Principle and the teacher brought in a fan and a beach ball to get them thinking about the concept prior to students' reading about it. Another teacher created an artifact box with several items to introduce a novel. There are so many creative take-offs on this strategy! The main thing is to think about what would ignite students’ thinking and give them a reason to read.

Bringing in cartoons or photos pertaining to the reading students will be doing is a great pre-reading strategy. These visuals can spur discussion, generate background knowledge, and motivate students to read.

Sometimes an effective pre-reading strategy is to read a quote from the assigned material and comment on it or generate questions from it. Teachers can also bring in related quotes to get the same effect.