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A Pre-Reading Activity for Your Middle School English Classroom

prereading activity

Pre-reading activities are key to introducing a new short story, novel or piece of literature.  As English teachers approach a piece of literature, it is important to have students use their pre-reading skills. They should also use their prior knowledge to develop inferences and predictions in the text.

Pre-reading activities are some of my favorite activities to teach before my students dive into a text.  I love how the subjects of the literature evoke conversation, opinions and questioning about what is to come in the text. This is a perfect time to teach foreshadowing as well.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite pre-reading activities. I have one pre-reading activity you are going to want to implement in you classroom tomorrow!

What is Pre-Reading?

Pre-reading involves examining a literature’s title, subheadings and vocabulary. If pictures are provided, students formulate ideas and conclusions.  This is a great way for readers to acquire information and improve his/her reading comprehension before approaching the text.

Common pre-reading exercises include brainstorming. For example, students examine the title of the selection the class is about to read, listing all the information that comes to mind about this title. They then use pieces of information to recall and understand the material. Often a teacher uses a KWL chart, while others may use an Anticipation Guide. There are many types of pre-reading activities that a teacher can implement before reading a text. Over the last few years, I have used Prediction/Probable Passages.

What is Prediction Passages/Probable Passages?

One of my all-time favorite pre-reading activities that I implement in my classroom (on more than one occasion throughout the year) is Prediction Passages.  The reason I love this pre-reading activity so much is because it has my students using more than one pre-reading skill in the activity.  Prediction Passages asks the students to recall prior knowledge, comprehend vocabulary, make inferences, and of course, make predictions with the phrases and words given by the teacher.

How Does Prediction Passages Work?

  1. The teacher creates a list of words/phrases/dialogue from the text that are important to the chapter, novel, or short story (without giving the story or text away). Here is an example from chapter 1 of A Long Walk to Water.
Examples List of Words/Phrases/Dialogue

2.  Following, the students are grouped together, and the groups are given a list of words/phrases and a worksheet that includes six categories-setting, characters, conflicts/problems, ending/conclusions, vocabulary, and “I Wonder“.  The students are instructed that each word/phrase/dialogue can only go into a category ONCE.  

Prediction Passages Worksheet

3.  The groups work together and decide where they believe these words and phrases should best be placed.  The students have to collaborate, discuss, predict and infer what they believe is happening in the text by arranging the words and phrases.

4. Next, once the students have all the words and phrases in the boxes, they will have to write a gist/summary statement that includes the words and phrases.  I suggest you instruct the students to highlight the words/phrases in their gist/summary statement, so they know they are using them all.  Take a look at my example below:

5.  I always have all the groups read out their summaries, as it is so much fun to see which group comes close to the actual events.  Sometimes, I even award the group that comes close to the actual story.!

Have you used Prediction/Probable Passages before?  What did you use it for, and how did it work in your class? Please comment below!

Would you like this particular activity I used for A Long Walk to Water-Chapter 1?  Grab it right here!

Prediction Passages

A Long Walk to Water-Chapter 1 Words/Phrases

I hope this activity will helpful and enjoyable in your classroom.  If you do use it, let me know how it goes.  You can drop a comment on this blog post. 


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