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Improve Students Reading Comprehension With a Range of Pre-Reading Activities

By Margie

To improve reading comprehension, students should be encouraged to complete pre-reading activities before reading text. Familiarity with the text improves understanding and leads to reading success.


To familiarize students with the text they are about to read. (Always establish a purpose for reading followed by a pre-reading activity.)

What's Your Purpose?

Establish a purpose for reading.This should be done with every piece of text read. Have students determine what the primary outcome of reading the text should be. To provide information? To provide entertainment? To gain understanding as to how something works? It is helpful if you, the teacher, establish the purpose for reading and then guide your students to that outcome.

Improve Vocab

Pick a few key words from the text -- 7-10 is usually a good number. Have the students write a brief story using each word. This familiarizes students with the vocabulary used in the text. Not only will this help improve reading comprehension, it will improve writing skills as well.

Have students share their stories and discuss briefly any words the students have questions about.


Give students the name of the text they will be reading. It's also a good idea to provide pictures that reflect the topic of the text. Based on the name and pictures, have students make 2-3 predictions as to what they think the text will be about. Have them include reasons as to why they made the prediction.

Follow-up Activity: After reading the text, have the students go back and see how accurate their predictions were. You can find more after-reading activities here.

KWL Chart

This one has probably been overused in the past, but still has value.Just be careful to use it sparingly because many students may have been overexposed in prior classes, and if they haven’t, you don’t want to be the one to overexpose them!

This activity works particularly well with non-fiction text.

K: What I KNOW. Have students brainstorm what they already know about a topic.

W: What I WANT to know. Have students brainstorm what they would like tolearn about a topic.

L: (After reading) What I LEARNED from reading the text. Have students list several things they learned after reading the text.

When used consistently, pre-reading activities improve reading comprehension of students. When they have prior knowledge of text, students are better able to concentrate on and comprehend what they are reading.