Throughout the summer I’ve been posting a series of posts looking at communicative classroom reading strategies. I’ve started each post with this little bit of blurb explaining my thinking behind the series, as well as what you can expect to find in each post. Although this is now the sixth post of the series, please feel free to read on (you should probably skip this section if you’ve read my previous entries in the series).
As far as I’m concerned, when implementing strategy training of this kind in your classes teacher demonstration, modeling, and follow-up independent practice are all critical factors for success. I’d also say that learner discussion following strategy instruction is also helpful. For more on what I consider to be fundamental considerations in using reading strategies, please take a look at the opening paragraphs in the first post in this series.
Each strategy in this series of posts will most likely include most – if not all – of the following:
- Advice on how to implement the strategy in your classes
- Putting it into practice with second language learners
- The supporting research / recommended further reading
- Downloadable templates will also be available for most of the strategies we’ll look at here on the blog.
Does this sound OK to you? Right then, let’s get down to business…
6. Developing comprehension: First lines
When to use: I’d suggest this should probably be used before reading
How to use: Individually, with small groups or even in a whole class setting
First Lines is, essentially, a pre-reading comprehension strategy in which learners read the beginning sentences from a text and then make predictions about that text. This technique helps learners to focus their attention on what they can tell from the first lines; as they go on to read the text in its entirety they discuss, revisit and/or revise their original predictions.
So, why use first lines?
- It really helps learners to develop the skill of making predictions about the content of what they’re about to read or what is about to be read to them.
- It also helps learners focus their attention on what they can tell from the first lines of a story, newspaper article, play, poem, or any other kind of text.
Here’s an example of how the first lines strategy can work using the first lines from classic works of literature, from NPR.
If you need something visual, here are a couple of videos showing you how effective the strategy can be…
How can we use an anticipation guide?
Here’s a basic guide for implementing this strategy in your language class.
- Choose the course reading and introduce the text to your learners. Ask them to read only the first line of the assigned text, or paragraph, or read aloud only the first line.
- Ask learners to make predictions for the reading based on the first sentence.
- Engage the class in discussion about the predictions.
- Encourage learners to return to their original predictions after reading the text, assessing their original predictions and building evidence to support those predictions which are accurate. They can create new predictions, too.
Considerations: Putting it into practice with second language learners
- Include writing and graphic organizers as a way of organizing predictions and / or thoughts generated from discussions.
- It’s good to get learners to work in groups and support each other as they make predictions.
- Remind learners that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to make predictions about a text: they are free to use their imaginations.
- Place importance on the fact that they should be able to support their predictions from the information in the sentence.
Emphasize that they should be able to support their predictions from the information in the sentence.
Further reading: The research that supports this strategy
- Beers, K. (2003). When Kids Can’t Read — What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.