Teachers are frequently reading to their students, but did you know that there is a “right way” to introduce new text to students? A good reading and discussion is much more than simply reciting words from the page. The following strategies for introducing new text will help your students remain interested as well as engaged in the text itself.
You’ve been in this position before.
Per the reading curriculum your district mandates you follow with fidelity, you ask your students to open to the story on page x, and you see half the class’s eyes immediately glaze over.
And maybe this is even a story you aren’t overly interested in, either.
Thinking you’d better get the story read so you don’t lose everyone else, you just jump in feet first and secretly cross you fingers behind your back, hoping you get through the story and the week with minimal conflict from your students.
Don’t worry. It’s happened to all of us.
But here’s the thing.
You’re (we’re– remember, you aren’t alone!) doing it all wrong. And this method is especially wrong if you already have students who are only marginally interested in the text anyway.
5 Strategies for Introducing New Text
Before you ever ask your students to just turn to page x to begin reading the story, you must prep your class for what they are to learn from the text.
Look at the Book Cover or Title Illustration
Ask the children to study the cover of the book or the image on the title page. What do they notice? To get the conversation started, try asking the following kinds of questions:
- What is happening?
- Does it look like the story will be fiction or non-fiction?
- When have you seen something like this before?
- Explain what the picture looks like.
- Does the illustration or picture seem to match the title of the story? Why or why not?
- What does the title tell us about the story?
- Does the image and title remind you of anything you have experienced?
Open to the Story and Read the Pictures
The illustrations or pictures included in a text, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, are incredibly important.
Printing images is costly, so if a publisher decides to include specific illustrations or pictures, it is a deliberate decision. They must add to the story. So, take a moment to ask your students what they can learn from the pictures.
Some educators call this a picture walk. Some just call it previewing the text.
Whatever the name you assign, take the time to draw your students’ attention to important images that may give away bits and pieces of what they can expect from the text. In fiction stories, this may be plot elements, while in non-fiction it may be picture captions and diagrams with labels.
Discuss Possible Predictions and Make a List of Questions
Making predictions and asking questions are two reading strategies that most reading curriculum formally teach, and they are both things that active readers naturally do.
Many teachers won’t touch on these strategies until they read the story with their students, however starting them before the text is ever read allows for deeper discussion throughout the reading as well as following the reading.
Invite children to make predictions as well as write down on the whiteboard any questions they might have from previewing the pictures and the text.
Introduce New Vocabulary and Concepts
The text selected for students is often at their instructional level, which means that children need scaffolding and support as they attempt to read it.
One way teachers can minimize the frustration or boredom some students experience is by introducing them to new vocabulary and concepts before reading the text at all. This is especially true of non-fiction text as well as historical fiction.
Relate Concepts to Students’ Background Knowledge and Personal Experiences
To really get a student’s interest in a selected text, it is imperative to compare the concepts in the text to their personal experiences and background knowledge.
This gives the student a feeling of confidence as they begin actually reading, making them feel they already have a connection with the characters or concepts. Of all of the steps, this one cannot be skipped.
New Text Means New Learning
The thing about spending time to complete the five strategies for introducing new text as stated above is this…it takes time. And sometimes you feel crunched and pressured and you don’t feel like you have any extra time.
But you can’t skip these steps. Even if you are only using one of the above strategies to keep your students’ minds from wandering elsewhere before you even begin reading, you will see improvement.
You will find your students interacting more with the text as they read, and developing deeper interests in new topics. And you will find they will become better readers, too!
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