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First Lines

First Lines is a pre-reading comprehension strategy in which students read the beginning sentences from a book and then make predictions about that book. This technique helps students focus their attention on what they can tell from the first lines of a story, play, poem, or other text. As students read the text in its entirety they discuss, revisit and/or revise their original predictions.

Why use first lines?

  • It helps students learn to make predictions about the content of what they're about to read or what is about to be read to them.
  • It helps students focus their attention on what they can tell from the first lines of a story, play, poem, or other text.

How to use first lines

  1. Choose the assigned reading and introduce the text to the students. Ask students read only the first line of the assigned text, or if using your read aloud, read aloud only the first line.
  2. Ask students to make predictions for the reading based on the first sentence.
  3. Engage the class in discussion about the predictions.
  4. Encourage students to return to their original predictions after reading the text, assessing their original predictions and building evidence to support those predictions which are accurate. Students can create new predictions as well.

Just for teachers, just for fun

Watch this NPR story on famous lines from books appropriate for adults.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Examples

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners

  • Include writing as a way of organizing predictions and/or thoughts generated from discussions.
  • Have students work in groups and support each other as they make a prediction.
  • Remind students that there is not a "right" or "wrong" way to make predictions about a text.
  • Emphasize that they should be able to support their predictions from the information in the sentence.

See the research that supports this strategy

Beers, K. (2003). When Kids Can't Read — What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona

Having a four-year old sister like Ramona can be a real pain as 9-year old Beezus (aka Beatrice) knows all too well. Ramona likes to do things in her own often pesky, frequently funny, and always imaginative way. The movie version of the modern classic is due out in March 2010.

Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid

Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid

Stink's real name is James, just like President James Madison. And like Madison, Stink is short — a notion constantly reinforced by his older sister Judy. Stink, however, learns how to cope with it while along the way learning about U.S. presidents.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

These stories capture the spirit of childhood through the beloved characters in the Hundred Acre Wood. Messages about worries, fears, friendship, and discovery are embedded in delightful, episodic chapters. Winnie the Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928) are presented in one volume with Shepard’s delicate black and white sketches carefully colored. Ideal for reading aloud, these tales continue to enchant children of all ages.

Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are

Max's imaginative adventure begins the night he wears his wolf suit and makes some mischief. When he is sent to his room to cool off, he travels to the land of the Wild Things, where he is crowned king. This beloved Caldecott-winning classic is also available in Spanish.

Go on a reading adventure with Reading Rockets' Where the Wild Things Are family literacy bag, available in English and Spanish!

Comments

I love this strategy! I'd never heard of it before, but I'll use it all year long! Thank you!

I like using this strategy before I read a book aloud. My students love to be right!

I always use this strategy. The kids love it. Remember, every prediction is correct as long as it is resonable so sometimes we don't read the book at all. We just make interesting predictions!

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