How to Teach Students to Preview Reading Assignments

Providing Students With a Framework for Reading

Giving students the skills they need to be successful readers is the job of every teacher. One skill that many students find helps them save time and comprehend more of what they are reading is to preview reading assignments. Like any skill, this is one that students can be taught. Following are step-by-step instructions to help you teach students how to effectively preview reading assignments. Approximate times have been included, but these are just a guide. The entire process should take students about three to five minutes.

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Start With the Title

Student reading a book
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This might seem obvious, but students should spend a few seconds thinking about the title of the reading assignment. This sets the stage for what comes ahead. For example, if you have assigned a chapter in an American History course titled, "The Great Depression and the New Deal: 1929-1939," then students would get a clue that they will be learning about these two topics that occurred during those specific years.
Time: 5 Seconds

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Skim the Introduction

Chapters in a text typically have an introductory paragraph or two that gives a broad overview of what students will learn in the reading. Students should have an understanding of at least two to three key points that will be discussed in the reading after a quick scan of the introduction.
Time: 30 seconds - 1 minute

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Read the Headings and Subheadings

Students should go through each page of the chapter and read all of the headings and subheadings. This gives them an understanding of how the author has organized the information. Students should think about each heading and how it relates to the title and introduction they previously skimmed.

For example, a chapter titled "The Periodic Table" might have headings like "Organizing the Elements" and "Classifying the Elements." This framework can provide students with advanced organizational knowledge to help them once they start reading the text.
Time: 30 seconds

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Focus on the Visuals

Students should go through the chapter again, looking at each visual. This will give them a deeper understanding of the information that will be learned as you read the chapter. Have students spend a few extra seconds reading through the captions and trying to figure out how they relate to the headings and subheadings.

Time: 1 minute

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Look for Bold or Italicized Words

Once again, students should start at the beginning of the reading and quickly search through for any bold or italicized terms. These will be the important vocabulary words used throughout the reading. If you wish, you could have students write a list of these terms. This provides them with an effective way to organize future studying. Students can then write down definitions for these terms as they go through the reading to help understand them in relation to the information learned.
Time: 1 minute (more if you have the students make a list of terms)

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Scan the Chapter's Summary or Final Paragraphs

In many textbooks, the information taught in the chapter is neatly summed up in a couple of paragraphs at the end. Students can quickly scan through this summary to reinforce the basic information that they will be learning in the chapter.
Time: 30 seconds

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Read Through the Chapter Questions

If students read the chapter questions before they begin, this will help them focus on the key points of the reading from the beginning. This type of reading is simply for the students to get a feel for the types of things they will need to be learning in the chapter.
Time: 1 minute

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "How to Teach Students to Preview Reading Assignments." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 27). How to Teach Students to Preview Reading Assignments. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "How to Teach Students to Preview Reading Assignments." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).