Previewing Texts for Reading Comprehension

Students in my private practice walk through the door with newly assigned literature texts every week. Many of them have never encountered the book they are reading before the book was placed in their hands. Getting a student ready to read a new text is something I enjoy and there are a lot of resources available today that makes that job easier.

Read a text summary
A book jacket or a review on Goodreads or Amazon.com is a great way to preview a text with a student. This gives them the context of the story and sets the stage for what is to come. After reading the summary, I ask some simple questions. What do you think the main character is like? How will they solve the problem mentioned? How do you think it will end? 

Videos
Next, I like to visit Youtube with the student and find a 2 or 3-minute selection of a video based on the book. This allows my student to picture the main character in their head, see the setting and start forming a basis for how to make a "movie in their head" for the story action. I'm careful not to spend too much time on Youtube as teens can too engrossed. I'm familiar with the reading material in my area for middle school and high school, so I have some go to videos for books they are reading.

Vocabulary
We preview vocabulary assigned with the book/novel for our next step. In The Red Pony, the first chapter contains words like: saunter, rambunctiousness, and contemplative. We break down the meaning of saunter, for example, using our WordQuations® method.

  • Vocabulary word: saunter
  • base word is WALK
  • speed is SLOW
  • heaviness is GENTLE or POWERFULLY
  • emotion/motive is RELAXED

So when someone is sauntering, they are walking slowly, powerfully or gently, in a relaxed way. Who would walk that way? Possibly a cowboy, since the title is about a pony and a cowboy takes care of horses. I would introduce other vocabulary such as, meander and swagger, also WALK words.

Organization
How is the text organized? The Red Pony by John Steinbeck is organized in a series of stories rather than chapters. This is important for the student to know when reading and discussing the novel in class. Some books are organized into chapters and others into sections of chapters. Building a roadmap on how to navigate a new text involves understanding how the text is laid out.

Background
Finally, do a little research on the author or time period in which the book was written. Determine if there is a personal aspect from the story to the author's life.

Based on these strategies, my student now knows a little more about the book/novel she is reading. It seems less daunting and more like an adventure. Better yet, comprehension improves because we have laid the foundation for a better understanding of the text.