Site-wide links

Before-Reading Activities

The ideas that follow will not necessarily be new ideas for most of the visitors to this site; they are ideas that have been used by myself, my colleagues at NTID, and I am sure by many other teachers nationwide with varying degrees of success. Sometimes trying the same idea with a different class or with a new twist will produce very different results.

When trying to decide on which ideas to include in this module, I thought about how much time would be involved in implementing them in the classroom. I tried to choose activities and assignments that required the least amount of preparation for content area teachers and that could be easily integrated into any curriculum. Most of the activities can also be used at any level, from elementary to postsecondary with little or no modification.

Before-Reading Activities

To prepare students for a reading and to help them become more motivated to read, try the following reading strategies. Often, doing a little preparation can go a long way in helping students understand difficult texts.

Activating Schema

Before beginning a reading, ask students to activate their schema on the new topic during class time. For example, write the title of the chapter or article on the board and ask students to write down whatever they already know about that topic. Related ideas are fine also.

Then ask them to skim the article to further activate prior knowledge. They can free-write for two or three minutes on anything that comes to mind about the topic and then share their ideas with the class.

To save time, you can skip the free writing activity, and ideas can be shared through discussion only. By connecting new ideas to existing knowledge, students can fill in gaps in their readings.


Before beginning a reading, ask students to make a prediction about what the text will discuss based on the title and a brief preview of subheadings, pictures, graphs, etc. Emphasize that thinking about the material and making a prediction is more important than being right or wrong. Briefly discuss the students' predictions.

Developing Questions

After students have previewed a reading, ask them to write two or three questions they would like to find the answers to in their reading. For example, if they are about to read a chapter on "The Milky Way Galaxy," ask them what they are curious about and to come up with some questions about that idea. This gives them a more personal reason for reading.

Preparation for Answering Questions

If you are assigning questions for students to answer after they read, explain the type of questions you are asking. For example, are the answers to the questions explicitly stated in the text? Do the students need to think about what they have read and come up with their own answers?

Asking students to read through the questions during class before reading a passage is good preparation for a reading also. This not only gives them an opportunity to ask for clarification if necessary, but gives them an additional purpose for reading. Moreover, it becomes a guide for what is important to look for and remember in the text.