Reading Comprehension Can Be Increased Using Pre-Reading StrategiesPosted In Literature | Posted By Stacy Prewett
Pre-reading Strategies Will Increase Reading Comprehension
Have you ever been reading and stopped to ask yourself, “What did I just read?” Often our minds wander, and for a variety of reasons. Perhaps dinner plans were on your mind, or you lost focus because you could not stop thinking about the unfinished report you had at work. Anything can rob our focus, and the same thing happens to children. So, what can teachers do to keep students focused and increase their comprehension? Pre-reading strategies are the answer. Pre-reading strategies can be divided into five major areas including previewing, predicting, prior knowledge, purpose, and pre-teaching. Just think of the five P’s.
Previewing is the First Step to Increasing Reading Comprehension
Previewing is the simple act of skimming through the text before actually reading it. When previewing fiction, a reader may look for text features that provide clues to the organization of the composition. A reader may also be able to detect the point of view during previewing if it looks like the narrator is referring to herself in the first person, by using the pronoun “I”. This is also the time to carefully look at any illustrations or photographs that may be in the text.
When previewing nonfiction, it is perhaps even more important for students to pay attention to the text features. Nonfiction is often full of text features that may confuse the reader and inhibit comprehension. However, when a reader takes the time to preview the text features, those same text features will aid in comprehension. As the reader previews a nonfiction selection, he should look for a variety of font types including bold print and italicized print. This is an author’s way of pointing out something important. Sometimes nonfiction is divided into sections with headings and subheadings. Authors divide articles with headings and subheadings to help readers understand when the topic changes. Readers should also preview any graphs, charts, or maps. Often these text features further explain facts that are presented in the text. Other text features include tables of contents, glossaries, and indexes. These are tools for helping the reader find particular information in the text.
Predictions Help Students Increase Reading Comprehension
After previewing the text, it is important to have students make a prediction about what the reading selection will be about. Their predictions should be based on what they have discovered while previewing the text. It is helpful for the student to write down the prediction to revisit after reading. If the reading is divided into sections or chapters, students should make predictions before reading, each time they begin a new part. One simple way to do this is to give students a sticky note and have them place it throughout the text. Have them stop at the predetermined places to reflect on their previous predictions, and write a new prediction based on their findings.
These predictions, and whether they were correct or not, make great discussion starters after reading, and help the reader clarify what is happening in the story. When readers make predictions about nonfiction text, the same activity using sticky notes can be used. The teacher will want to have them make a prediction based on the text features like headings, subheadings, and photographs. Making predictions also helps readers maintain focus as they read to determine whether their predictions were correct.
Activate Prior Knowledge to Increase Reading Comprehension
Activating prior knowledge and building background are perhaps the most important pre-reading strategies for students. When students have no background or prior knowledge of a topic, they have a difficult time understanding what they read. This is often accomplished with a KWL chart, where the students and teacher create a three-columned chart on what they already KNOW about a topic in one column, what they WANT to know in the next column, and then what they have LEARNED in the last column. The last column can either be completed after reading the selection, or after doing some research on the topic before reading the selection.KWL Chart
Another quick way to activate prior knowledge is to share an image of something related to the new concept, then have students tell everything they know about the picture. The image should be something they already know about, something that the teacher can connect to the concepts the students will be learning. Teachers can get creative about the ways they activate prior knowledge, but they should never assume students have prior knowledge about a topic or concept. Just like no two students are the same, no two students have identical background knowledge.
Increase Reading Comprehension by Setting a Purpose for Reading
In pre-reading, purpose can mean two different things. The first is related to the author’s purpose. In other words, what is the author trying to accomplish? Did she write the selection for entertainment, or perhaps to persuade her readers; or possibly, her purpose was to inform readers of some important information. Understanding the author’s purpose can help increase the reader’s comprehension.
The second purpose, referred to in pre-reading strategies, is related to the reader setting a purpose for reading. Having a purpose helps readers maintain focus and increases comprehension. Teachers might give readers a question, or questions, to answer as they read. Although similar to making a prediction, these questions are given by the teacher to bring out the literary elements that will be taught after reading, or the core concepts when reading nonfiction text.
Another way to provide a purpose for reading is through the use of an anticipation guide. These can be found on the internet, and they take many different forms. Essentially, an anticipation guide is a list of statements that spur the reader’s interest. The statements could be true, or they could be false. Before reading, students mark the statements true or false solely based on their previewing and predicting. Then, after reading, students will go back to their anticipation guide and mark the statements true or false again. This time, students will give evidence from the text supporting the statements as true or false.Anticipation Guide
Why Pre-teach Concepts or Vocabulary?
Too often, pre-teaching concepts and vocabulary is left out or done ineffectively. For example, the student may have learned about theme when they learned the elements of fiction, but they have yet to apply the concept. It is time well spent to go back over what the theme is in fiction before reading, if the teacher plans to have the students identify and explain the theme after they read.
Defining vocabulary words is a passive activity that most students dislike or even dread, however, this can be remedied by doing something with the words beyond just looking them up in the dictionary or Googling them. When vocabulary study is glossed over before reading, students will do the same when they come to an unfamiliar word as they read the text. They will pass over it without thinking, which creates a gap in comprehension.
One way to attack learning new vocabulary is to add a sketch that illustrates the meaning of the word. Many students are visual learners, and if they have created a visual representation of a new word, they are more likely to remember the meaning and can apply it. Their vocabulary sketches can be kept in a notebook, or they could even create a graffiti wall. No matter what activity is chosen, vocabulary study is important for the reader’s comprehension.Vocabulary Chart
At this point, you might be wondering how you will ever fit these strategies into your allotted time for analysis of fiction and nonfiction texts. Although the five pre-reading strategies seem like a lot, most of the activities are quick and simple. Much like the prep-work before completing a painting project, it is tempting to skip pre-reading strategies. Resist that urge and spend some time engaging your student in the five P’s. The end result will be a much more beautiful, finished product!