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Pre-Reading Strategies

These activities can help students to:

  • Activate Background Knowledge and Make Connections
  • Stimulate Predictions
  • Form a Purpose for Reading


Examine the cover illustration (if there is one) and read the title of new book. Ask child to predict what it might be about based on either the cover picture, the title, or both. If the title and illustration are not helpful in giving the student a sense of what the story is about, you can provide a brief summary of the book. For example, when looking at a book with a picture of a cat on the front, you can say: "This story is about a cat that moves to a new house and has some adventures while trying to make new friends."

Activating Background Knowledge:

Ask the student to tell you what he or she knows about the subject of the story or if he or she has had similar experiences, or heard or read a story like this or by same author. "You said you have a cat. Tell me what your cat does all day and who its friends are. What kind of friends do you think the cat in this book might find?" If the topic is totally unfamiliar, reconsider book choice, or take extra time to build the necessary background knowledge through some kind of concrete experiences. For example, if you choose a book about a farm and the student has never been to a farm you may want to begin by looking at pictures of farms and farm animals, and having a brief discussion about what kinds of things happen on farms: what animals live there, what things grow on farms, etc.

Conducting Picture Walk:

With Emergent and Early readers conduct a "Picture Walk" through the book, or chapter, by covering the print, and encouraging or guiding the student in a discussion of what could be going on based on the pictures. If there is vocabulary that may not be familiar to child such as "cupboard" or "bonnet" point the words out and explain them in connection with the pictures and the context of the story. "You're right, in this picture the teeny tiny woman is putting on her hat, except in this book it's called a 'bonnet' (pointing to the word) which is another word for hat. She is putting on her teeny tiny bonnet. Do you think she is getting ready to go somewhere? " In your discussion of the pictures, be sure to use as much of the actual book language as possible, especially if there are repeated patterns or refrains. (The Teeny Tiny Woman, Barbara Seeling).

Noticing Structure of the text:

Where appropriate, point out or help the child notice the structure of the text and connect it with other similarly structured texts heard or read. "Yes, this is a fairy tale. We've read several fairy tales together. What do you know about fairy tales? What have you noticed that is the same about the three tales we read?"

Forming Purpose for Reading:

Formulate and encourage the student to come up with two or three predictions or questions before reading. "This is a story about a boy who wants a dog, but his mother won't let him have one. What do you think he is going to do first? Why do you think that?" "You already know a lot about dinosaurs. What are some things you want to find out about them when you start reading this book?"