Literacy Activities

​Week 1: Literacy Workshop

What we worked on: Pre-Reading Strategies

Why? Pre-reading strategies help students to connect to prior knowledge, build schema (set the scene), and set a purpose for reading. These are steps that good readers, like you, take all of the time. 

What exactly did we talk about? We worked with Anticipation Guides, LINK, List-Sort-Label, and Chapter Tours.

What are we talking about next week? There will be more pre-reading ideas. Please bring your textbooks and ideas. Barb is here to support whatever you need in class.

What if everyone could not attend the workshop? Here is a description of each:

Anticipation Guides: (you can find pre-made guides online by Googling “anticipation guide for _______________”)

The Anticipation Guide is a strategy in which students forecast the major ideas of a reading passage through the use of statements that activate their thoughts and opinions. This strategy is helpful in activating students' prior knowledge and stimulating student interest just before a reading assignment is given.

Anticipation Guides are used prior to having students read a passage from their text or other supplemental reading material (whether they are reading it in class or as homework). The Anticipation Guide can also be used as an interactive hook for any lesson, presentation, or video.


Anticipation Guides can be used in almost any class in which new information is being provided to students. This strategy was developed originally for use prior to a reading in order to get students thinking and making predictions about what they were about to read. The guide is written in an "agree" or "disagree" or "true/false" format. It revolves around the most important concepts to be taught. Students are motivated to read (or view) closely in order to search for answers that support their thoughts and predictions. The guide activates students' prior knowledge and motivates them.


1. Identify the major concepts in the text. Before beginning the lesson, the teacher should look for the central ideas that he or she wishes to emphasize in the passage that students will be reading.

Example: The teacher in the classroom snapshot is beginning a unit on the Black Death in Medieval Europe. Students will be reading about the causes of the epidemic. The teacher has decided to focus on the following points:

* The Black Death probably consisted of several diseases that were spread by flea bites.

* It has been estimated that 25 percent to 50 percent of Europe's population died from that epidemic.

* The Black Death contributed to the end of feudalism in the middle Ages.

2. Identify ways in which students' beliefs will be either supported or challenged

Consider what students may already know about the topic, or may think that they know, that the reading can challenge or affirm. Do not choose facts or ideas that will be well known to students or that are not likely to provoke any discussion.

3. Create statements for the Anticipation Guide

These statements may challenge, modify, or support students' understandings. The most effective statements are those about which students may have some ideas, but not complete understanding. These statements should directly address the main points or ideas that the teacher wants to emphasize in step 1. The statements should be written to fit a "true/false" or "agree/disagree" response.

Example: In the classroom snapshot, the teacher decided to emphasize the causes of the Black Death in Europe. Some students may think that rats were the sole carrier of the disease at that time. Rat bites to humans were not the main form of transmission of these diseases--flea bites were. For example, the bubonic plague bacterium (yersinia pestis) would grow inside a rat. A flea would bite the rat, become infected with the bacteria (tiny one-celled organisms), and then bite a human, passing some of the bacteria along to that person. Very shortly, that person would become sick.

Some students may think that the bubonic plague was the only cause of the Black Death. Although bubonic plague may have been the main culprit, there were other diseases afoot, all of them caused by bacteria. Septicemic plague, bubonic plague, and pneumonic plague were all part of the problem. Some researchers think that anthrax was involved as well.

So was the Black Death spread mostly by rat bites? No, it was spread mostly by flea bites. Was the Black Death simply the disease that we now call the bubonic plague? No, the Black Death was probably caused by several diseases, bubonic plague among them.

4. Decide how to present the Anticipation Guide

Our preference is to begin by placing the Anticipation Guide on an overhead projector. We ask students to copy' the statements down in their notebooks, fill in the "Before the Reading" column in class, do the reading as homework, fill in the "After the Reading" column at home, and be ready to discuss their work with the whole class the next day. Alternatively, students could pair up and discuss their "True/False" responses, or the whole class could discuss the statements, or both.

The Anticipation Guide: Motivating Students to find out about History

Journal article by Michael M. Yell, Geoffrey Scheurman, Keith Reynolds; Social Education, Vol. 68, 2004

Chapter Tours: The use of text features to help students understand informational text.

1.      The teacher writes a written scavenger hunt for students to move through the text material.

2.      Questions ask students to locate headings, titles, glossaries, vocabulary supports, pictures, graphs and captions.

3.      Bonus! This is a great activity to leave for substitute teachers.

Chapter Tour alternative (less preparation): Graphic organizer that walks students through text features, and even includes a section on making predictions based upon text features.

LINK: Brainstorming technique to access prior knowledge and provide motivation for reading. Students predict what the text might be about.

1.      The teacher writes one word on the board.

2.      Students call out any words that they might associate with that word. The teacher writes down all words around the main word, but does not make corrections. (Idea: Have the kids who struggle the most go first, before the more obvious words are used. This will challenge the stronger students to reach deeper.)

3.      Based upon the accumulation of words, students predict what the text will contain.

4.      Extension into writing: students write a paragraph (can be done in groups) that begins “I predict this section will be about…”

5.      This is the most important part!!! The students now have created their own purpose and motivation for reading the text. Now, when they read the text, they will determine which words are appropriate to their reading assignment.

List-Sort-Label: use this strategy for building prior knowledge and providing a purpose for reading. Bonus! You can use the words from the LINK activity above.

1.      Students get into groups or pairs to arrange the words with possible like words in groups (usually around 3 or 4).

2.      Students come up with a label for each group of words.

3.      The teacher does not make corrections. Rather, students read the text to analyze their words for accuracy, as well as consideration to include or remove.

CLOZE: Students fill in the blanks of deleted words from the textbook or other reading assignment.

1.      The teacher can make an exact copy of the textbook, white out key terms, and then make copies, OR teachers can choose only those passages that are important to understanding of the material.

2.      Students read through the passage, filling in words as they progress.

3.      Options

  • Student support: connects to prior knowledge, builds schema, and provides motivation for reading. The teacher reads the CLOZE out loud while students follow along and guess what words might fit into the blanks. This also supports students who have difficulty with word order and correct usage. Students are then prepared to search the text and build meaning.
  • Student support: introduction to key vocabulary as used in context. Students complete the CLOZE with a prepared word bank in addition to using the text for support.
  • NOT recommended for pre-reading: It is not helpful to paraphrase the text and then have students try to find words that fit. It could be effective as a post-reading activity when students have gained a greater understanding of the subject.

​Freewrites: Students write for a set amount of time without stopping. The teacher provides a topic that will help students connect to any knowledge they may have that will help them build background to the subject they will be reading about. For example, if the subject to be read is about the geometric properties of a square, students could be asked to write a list of everything they have ever encountered that has 4 right angles. If the subject is the Bill of Rights, students might be asked to write for 5 minutes about a freedom they will have when they turn 18.

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