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Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation

Content: Before-Reading Activities


In the before-reading stage, instructors talk with students to ensure they have enough background knowledge. Background knowledge prepares students to make sense of the content they are reading and familiarizes them with a new text or topic. So too does intentional review of new vocabulary. Many texts deal with specialized topics for which students will need to know specialized words. A text about plant growth might ask a student to learn the word “chlorophyll,” for example.

This is a link to some specific questions to have students connect to per different components of the story.


Teachers and parapros might also provide pre-reading scaffolding in the form of plans and concrete activities, like handing a student a chart to fill out as he or she reads and explaining what information should go in it. The table below shows a number of pre-reading scaffolds that can help many students make the most of the reading they do silently. The different scaffold activities on the table are separated by row and shading.

Scaffolds to Help Students Build Reading Strategies Before Reading

Scaffolding Activity What It Does Examples
Discuss briefly the subject of a new text The discussion provides background information to help students figure out new words and make better inferences. “Last month, we learned about electricity. Who can tell me something we learned?”
Create a three-part KWL Chart: Know, Want to Know, Learned Students fill in the K and W parts before reading based on what they already know and what they want to learn. After reading, they fill in the L part. K: Ducks are birds. They have feathers. They like water.
W: What do they eat? What color are they?
Pre-teach new vocabulary The preview teaches new words that will be in the text. Teachers can use pictures, videos, or real objects. Or they can tap into students’ real-life experiences and connect new words to already-known words. Don’t ask students to memorize definitions! “What is a logjam? Let’s break it down. What is a log? What is a jam?”

Show a video of logs all backed up in a river. Explain that a logjam does not just involve real logs. It occurs when many things block a problem from being solved.

Preview or walk through the text A preview gives students an idea of what the text will be about or shows them text features and explains how to use them. Before reading a brief article about butterflies, review the parts of the article with the students—the introduction, body of the article, information in a table, and summary.
Set the stage: watch a video or film, look at photos, learn a song, view artwork, go on a field trip, listen to a guest speaker This provides background context and brings students into the time, place, and mood of the upcoming reading. It also builds vocabulary. Watch a video about colonial Philadelphia before reading a story about Ben Franklin. Listen to a recording of an interview with a concentration camp survivor, who talks about her experiences during the Holocaust before reading a story about Anne Frank. Read about space travel in a science textbook or on the Internet before reading a fictional story about space travel.
Set a purpose: what students should look for during reading and how they should record it This gives students a reason to read, keeps them on task, and promotes active engagement. In a poem:

  • Find the rhyming words.
  • Find similes and metaphors.
  • Find patterns and repetition.

In a prose story:

  • Find descriptive language.
  • Find facts vs. opinions.
  • Find cause-effect connections.

Module: Helping Students Read (Clone)

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