Post ideas for pre-reading/listening/viewing activities here.

Table of Contents

Purposes of Pre-reading:

  • Activate students' prior knowledge and experiences
  • Build oracy and background knowledge to prepare students for the content of the text
    • Conceptual
    • Cultural
    • Language Patterns (Grammar)
    • Vocabulary

  • Capture students' attention and interest through contextualized, shared experiences
  • Develop schema to help students' brains organize information (preview and predict)
  • Establish a purpose for reading


  • ABC Brainstorm - Students try to list something they know about the topic for each letter of the alphabet

  • Associogram - Teacher provides a list of character traits, concepts, objects, pictures, or themes students will encounter in the story. Students make a web in which they list associations they make with each one.

  • Cloze Passages - Give students sections of the text and ask them to predict missing words or to fill in the blanks as they listen to that segment of the story. This allows students to preview difficult or important sections of the text prior to reading it in its entirety.

  • Comparisons - Provide students with a list of events, characters, or objects they will encounter in the story and have them compare each one with a person, personal experience, or object from their own lives

  • Describe & Draw - Project an image from the text (or related to the text) on the screen (using a computer or overhead projector). Partner A views the image and describes it in the target language. Partner B tries to draw what is described. Alternatively, read a passage from the text and ask students to draw what they hear (works especially well for maps or descriptions of places in the story). This is an especially good activity for practicing grammar and vocabulary students will encounter in the story

  • Games - Play games such as jeopardy to activate prior knowledge about concepts or themes students will encounter in the text, or to review events from a previous chapter in the text

  • Gouin Series - Have students pantomime key events which will occur in the upcoming chapter or which already occurred during the previous chapter (you narrate and act out and students mimic you, then you narrate and students act out, then you act and students narrate)

  • Greet n Go: Everyone gets a short piece of the story (2-3 sentences max, depending on the length of the text), and reads it to 3-5 people. Tell them they are to read it exactly, and not to expand, put their own 2 cents in or anything. Just read their passage and then listen to their partners. Give them enough time to hear at least 3 people's passages, and then they have a good idea about what the passage is about. I REALLY liked doing this, especially with a L2 because the students only needed to read about 3 sentences, they heard other parts... So when they get to the actual passage, they see a lot of familiar stuff. From Ioanna Tolios and Connie Zucker- cartierm

  • Highlight words they DO KNOW. This idea came from Cherice, or somewhere else on this wiki, but I can't seem to find where now. Although I have used it several times, it is great for lower levels that are sometimes timid when approaching a lengthy text. -cartierm

  • Inquiry Chart

  • Inside/Outside Circles - Students rotate around a circle asking one another comprehension questions in the target language about the previous chapter or attempt to elicit opinions about possible events in the upcoming chapter--still accomplishes the "question-answering" but in a much more active way

  • Journals - Students respond to journal prompts that encourage them to think about a social problem or other event they will encounter when they read the story. Once students have read a segment or two from the story, they can also write journals from the point of view of one of the characters (or from one character to another) in preparation for the next segment of the story

  • KWL Chart (Modified) - Students use a chart to analyze what they know, want to know, what they think they will learn, how they will find out, and what they learned

  • Magic Box - Place objects that represent key events, items, or themes from the story into a bag or box. Allow students to take turns feeling the items and describing them to their classmates. Alternatively, students can take turns extracting items from the box, and then students do a pre-reading activity associated with that particular item

  • Mind's Eye - Teacher reads aloud vocabulary words, students visualize and predict content of text

  • Mystery Picture - Cover a picture of a character, event, or setting from the story students will be reading with papers that look like numbered puzzle pieces. Ask students to select a piece and remove it. Ask them to describe what they see, to predict what might be under other pieces, to discuss what IS happening, what WILL happen, or what they think has JUST happened in the picture

  • Opinionnaire/Survey - Ask students for their opinions about a key concept or controversial issue in the story (such as bullying, prejudice, stereotypes, technology use, welfare, or something that is going to happen in the upcoming portion of the story)

  • Predict the Story with Pictures: Get students into small groups of 3-4. And then, give them a piece of paper with some pictures on it that have to do with the story. ( IE: For the 3 little pigs: A cup of sugar, a hammar, and a person sneezing or something) Have the students come up with a story that makes sense using these pictures. From Ioanna Tolios and Connie Zucker
    Now if this were me, I would make mine (especially at a level 3) I would make them write a short paragraph that explains the story. But thats just my preference! :D You can also do this with words, but I feel that the students are forced to be more creative and thoughtful if they use pictures. -

  • Predict the Text with Pictures: Ask students to generate a text that makes sense based on a worksheet with pictures related to the text. IE: For the 3 little pigs: A cup of sugar, a hammar, and a person sneezing or something) From Ioanna Tolios and Connie Zucker - cartierm

  • Predictions - Give students a list of events and ask them to check off anything they think will actually happen in the text, then read to see if they were correct. Alternatively, you can read the "blurb" from the back of the book to students in the target language, then ask them to write 5 sentences telling you what will happen next

  • Questioning - Ask students to generate conceptual, factual, and/or procedural questions about the topic/texts before they read

  • Read - Have students read relevant material such as advertisements, a poem, a cartoon, or another story to prepare them for the conceptual, grammatical, or lexical content of the story

  • Sequencing - Give students pictures of events which will occur and ask them to sequence them and tell a story about them (PRIOR to reading that section of the text). Alternatively, give students strips of paper containing key phrases from the story and ask them to work together in small groups to put them into a logical order

  • Show & Tell - Have students bring objects (or distribute objects you have collected) which represent key themes that will be addressed in the story (teacher provides the list of themes). Have students "show" the objects and "tell/explain" how the object represents the theme. Following the reading of the story, students can do a similar activity, this time explaining the significance of the object they brought from their own life and how it relates to the story.

  • Signal cards - Ask true/false questions about the conceptual or cultural content students will encounter in the story and have students hold up green cards for true or red cards for false. You can also use this activity to review the grammar they will encounter in the story (such as preterit v. imperfect, por v. para, etc.)

  • Unscramble - Give students a biography of the author, a description of one of the characters, or a passage from the story that is out of order and ask them to number the sentences in the order they belong. (This is sometimes easier if you provide students with sentence strips and allow them to physically unscramble the story instead.)

  • Video Clips or Slide Shows - View slides or watch a video related to the conceptual or cultural content of the text in some way (such as a short advertisement or video clip about a social issue addressed by the story)

  • What is the question?: This is great for vocabulary, and it's funny! Break students into groups of 3-4 students, and give them a list of vocabulary words. Then, have them write a question about it. It doesnt necessairly have to make sense, (because they may not know what it means) but if you have them use their knowledge about spanish (like is this work a noun, verb, adverb etc) and they write a question. Tell them that they ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE "WHAT IS___?" because they will simply write that for every vocabulary word. Give them the reading, and then see if they can answer the questions after they read, OR adapt them to make more sense, and then answer them! From Ioanna Tolios and Connie Zucker - cartierm

Introduce and practice vocabulary with some of the following activities:
  • Brainstorm vocabulary based on an object or picture
  • Cloze passages
  • Describe & Draw
  • Games such as Charades, Taboo or Twenty Thousand Dollar Pyramid
  • Gouin series
  • Hear/Circle
  • Magic box--pull out objects from a box which relate to vocabulary from the novel and use TPR to practice the words
  • Have students create their own stories from a given list of essential vocabulary words

(See Remedies for Reading Woes (FLTEACH Post for more ideas)