Pre- reading activities for older students? Yes. Getting students thinking about a reading assignment is paramount to their understanding and involvement of a story.
Students may need ‘sold’ on a novel or short story. Pre- reading activities can accomplish this and increase student understanding. I’ve compiled ten of the pre- reading activities I’ve used before. There are tons more and many variations of these. I hope you find them helpful.
1. Look at the cover. What colors are used? What images? Explain if these ideas given an inkling to the tone of the story. Do students spot a potential symbol?
2. Look at the pictures. Who is the story about? What does the setting look like? Sometimes the font can give the reader a clue. A romantic story may have ‘pretty’ font.
3. Read the table of contents. I love finding excitingly labeled chapters. Are the chapters telling readers anything? Do they seem to follow the plot structure?
4. Draw conclusions from the title. As I Lay Dying is my favorite book to do this with. Dying? For an extended period of time?
5. Give students the setting. Research ideas about the time period and location. This works well because students can find a portion that interests them – maps, fashion, politics.
6. Read the summary of the book jacket. What genre are we looking at? The summary should give us a clue. Defining different types may help students understand what to expect. (Example: Animal Farm).
7. What can the author’s background tell us? Look at significant events in the author’s life. Would these events shape his/ her writing? Edgar Allan Poe is a great author for using this technique.
8. Analyze a bit of sentence structure. I enjoy doing this with older pieces of literature. I pull a few sentences that will not give away key parts of the story. We look at the writing with a grammatical lens. What slang is unfamiliar?
9. Brainstorm the central topic. If the theme is not a secret, pre- reading activities can include developing students’ interest about a theme. For instance in The Great Gatsby, an underlying theme is that wealth is illusive and is often tied to the American Dream. Students can brainstorm about what an American Dream is, how people may have different ones, and how people attain them. They can internalize what their American Dream is, and build empathy with characters.
10. Research a fact. Sometimes students read literature that they may not be familiar with. When I teach “A Raisin in the Sun,” I have had students complete a web quest about different types of insurance. This really pulls in students who may not typically care for plays. Learning about a ‘factual’ part of life intrigues them and can get them interested the story.
Pre- reading activities for older students are important. They highlight parts of the story and bring a focus to the assignments. Plus? Pre- reading activities are a great way to neatly tie your lesson plans with a bow. After reading a novel, return to the pre- reading activities. How have students’ ideas changed? What did they correctly predict? How was the story different? All of those ideas will better your language arts lesson plans.
Whenever possible, I provide student choice for students to show me their understanding. These graphic organizers allow students to choose the best option to increase learning.
What pre- reading activities for older students have you found effective?