Strategy Toolbox: Before Reading
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.
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.
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
Sometimes it is effective to confront students with a
problem or issue that the reading will help them solve
or better understand.
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:
scales (e.g., 1-10, “How sure are you of your answer?”)
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).
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.
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!
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
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.