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.

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

More comprehension strategies

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.

Watch: Sentence Starters for Text-to-Self Connections

Improve students' comprehension skills by explicitly modeling making connections and providing them with practice using this strategy. See the lesson plan.

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Reading Comprehension Strategies section.

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

By: Beverly Cleary
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

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 was released in March 2010.

Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid

Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid

By: Megan McDonald
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

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

By: A.A. Milne
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Milne’s classic books, Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner are brought together in one volume. Short, episodic chapters and playful language punctuated with Ernest Shepard’s line drawings make this an ideal read-aloud that can be read over time.

Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are

By: Maurice Sendak
Genre: Fiction, Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fantasy
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

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 our Where the Wild Things Are reading adventure pack, available in English and Spanish!


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!

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

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

Add comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo