Learn what works

Previewing text helps to engage and develop the background knowledge for students of all ages. It aids students in making predictions about the text and can pique their interest, thereby increasing their motivation to read. In addition, previewing allows students to focus their reading on key information. Previewing may provide clues about the text structure, preparing the reader to mentally organize the new information. After previewing, the student is ready to better comprehend the text. This is particularly true for students who have limited literacy skills.

Previewing a text should not give away too much of the content of the text. Students should be reading purposefully, so there should be some “mystery” about what is in the text. The Iowa Core placed increased emphasis on having student engage with complex text and to learn how to attack difficult text through close and repeated readings. Dr. Timothy Shanahan offers some perspective in his blog, Shanahan on Literacy.

When previewing text with a small group or with the whole class, a teacher can be alerted to misconceptions students may hold, and be able to address those prior to reading.

A preview may vary based on the type of text. A preview of a narrative text might include looking at the cover and title, reading the “teaser” on the back book cover, looking at pictures, and/or noticing chapter names. A preview of an expository text could also include attention to text features such as headings and subheadings, maps and charts, picture captions, and featured vocabulary.

Subject matter may dictate the contents of a preview. A preview of a science text might focus on tables or charts that will be key to understanding the text, while a preview of a history text might include noting the author and how the author’s perspective might affect the point of view of the text.

Previewing text may be combined with other pre-reading activities, such as questioning, predicting, or Talk-alouds.

See how it works

Sample Planning Guide (5th grade social studies Talk-aloud)
Sample Planning Guide (3rd grade science anticipation guide)
K-W-L Chart
Sample Planning Guide (science THIEVES)

Previewing text is often done in combination with other before reading strategies.

The ReadWriteThink website provides other examples of previewing:

Do what works

Anticipation Guide
Blank K-W-L Chart


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