Before you go on a trip, it’s advisable to look at a map so you’ll know generally where you’re headed, will know what to look for along the way, and will be able to tell when you start getting lost.
Before you read an assignment for school, it’s advisable to preview what you have to read so you’ll know generally where you’re headed, will know what to look for along the way, and will be able to tell when begin to wander off the path.
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As assigners of independent reading (and I hope you are among the teachers who realize that students have to read on their own if they are going become stronger readers), we have the opportunity to help our students by giving them a preview of what they will be reading.
Sometimes that preview comes in the form of a brief summary: “Tonight, you’re going to read about cells. You’re going to learn the main parts of cells and the difference between a plant and an animal cell.”
Other times, your preview will give the students a specific task, something to look for as they read: “As you finish the story on your own, I want you to pay special attention to the ways the author builds suspense and uses dramatic irony as his narrator explains what happened the night of the murder. Also, take note of the details that make the setting an effective one for a story of mystery and suspense.”
In her book Talk Read Talk Write, Nancy Motley talks about preceding reading by giving students a PAT (Pay Attention To) List of significant words, phrases, or ideas from the text that students should make sure they understand as they read. This helps point out the important concepts need to understand from the reading and allows student to sift out the essential information from the less important.
Another effective technique is to preview a chapter or article together with your students to model what good readers do before embarking on an informational reading assignment. Notice how the chapter is organized; read the headings and subheadings; look at maps, charts, and pictures; peruse any terms, charts, or timelines. Then, make some predictions about the content.
Or help the students build curiosity and set their own focus by completing a “K-W-L-A” graphic organizer. Before reading an informational text, students fill out the first two columns with what they already Know about the topic and what they Want to know about the topic. Then, as the read (or after), they can add ideas to the final two columns about what they Learned from their reading and how they intend to Apply what they read to class or to their life beyond the classroom.
By helping kids learn to preview and develop a focus before they read, you’ll be giving them a push to help them get into the assignment, which should lead to a more successful reading experience.
Secondary English Language Arts Instructional Specialist