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Sound It Out
Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
Problems with pre-reading
Pre-reading activities, the things teachers plan and do before reading a text, happen almost every day in elementary school. Pre-reading activities seek to improve a child's comprehension of a text by activating prior knowledge, and by providing time to pre-teach concepts or vocabulary students will encounter in a text. Pre-reading activities can be informal and quick, or they can be more formal, and incorporate strategies such as the Anticipation Guide or First Lines.
According to Shanahan on Literacy, two contributors to the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards "have been telling teachers not to engage in pre-reading activities and as a result some districts and states have already started banning the practice." (Shanahan suggests those authors are now softening that message.)
What's wrong with pre-reading activities? According to Shanahan, problems include:
Hmmmm…there's probably some truth to each of those reasons, in some lessons and in some cases. But in general I share Shanahan's belief that what we need to do is to "sharpen and focus pre-reading to the benefit of students."
So, what does good pre-reading look like?
It's short, and it's focused on the text. It highlights story elements that are important to a reader's understanding (for example, an unusual setting or time period). Attention to Tier 2, or useful words, is reflected. And it sets kids up for the "a-ha" moment — the one where they're reading along and they say, "Hey! We just talked about that!"
I'm sure there will be more to come on this, but I'd love for your to add to my short list. What does good pre-reading look like?
UPDATE 3/26/12: If you're interested in reading Tim Shanahan's guidelines for prereading, here's Part 2 of his posts on prereading.