Asking Pre-Reading Questions

Lesson Summary

This is a language arts lesson for students in grades 3-5. Students will learn about asking questions before reading and will make predictions based on the discussion of the questions.

Students should be able to differentiate between a question and a statement, generate questions, and work in cooperative, heterogeneous groups.


  • Students will brainstorm prior knowledge about the topic of a text

  • Students will make predictions about the text by asking effective "before" reading questions in order to improve our reading comprehension.

Key Understandings

  • Asking and discussing questions will improve our comprehension of the text.

  • Good readers ask questions before they read.



Select two narrative texts, one will be used to demonstrate the "before reading" questioning strategy, the other will be used for guided practice. It may be easier to choose two texts by the same author or two texts of the same genre. Discuss the ways in which a pre-game show and asking questions before, during, and after reading are similar. Good readers are like sports casters. Just as sports casters discuss the sports event before, during, and after the game, good readers ask and discuss questions before, during, and after reading. This improves comprehension, or understanding, of the text. You may say something such as,

"Who has watched a football, basketball, or baseball game on television? Sports casters help us understand the game by discussing it. They discuss the game with us before the game, during the game and after the game. Before the game, there is a pre-game analysis. That means that the announcer gives us background information about the game, teams, players, and coaches. This information can be used to make predictions about the outcome of the game. During the game, the announcers provide play-by-play coverage. They discuss important or controversial plays to help us understand what's going on in the game and to explain how certain plays may affect the outcome of the game. They even provide replays of the most important events of the game to make sure we remember them. Finally, after the game, announcers interview the coaches and players to get different perspectives about how the game was played. They review the highlights of the game, confirm or disprove their predictions, and discuss the implications of the outcome of the game."

Tell students they are going to focus on asking questions before they begin reading a text. If possible, show a video clip of a pre-game sports cast. Use the analogy of a pre-game show and before reading questions to help students ask effective "before" reading questions. As you generate questions for each topic. Spend some time wondering about the answers and making predictions about the book. Write your predictions about the book in a separate column.

  • Identify a purpose for reading the text. Narrative = for literary experience/enjoyment Expository = for information Functional = to perform a task/follow directions.

  • Examine the cover illustration and read the title, modeling how to ask questions. Write the questions on chart paper or on an overhead projector. Look at the author and model how to generate questions.

  • Activate background knowledge by taking a picture walk with students. Cover the print with sticky notes, and think aloud as you model how to generate questions, make predictions, and build vocabulary by carefully examining and discussing the illustrations in the text.

  • Ask questions about the setting, characters, events, and genre of the book.

Pre-Game Show Questions Before Reading Predictions
Team A vs. Team B What teams are playing? What do we know about these teams? Where are they from? Have we ever seen either team play? In your opinion, are they skilled? Is one team better than the other? Title of Story/Cover What topic might this story be about? What do we already know about this topic? Have we read any other books about this topic? Do we have any experience related to this topic? Where and when did we have the experience?
Coach Who is the coach? What do we know about the coach? What teams has he/she coached in the past? What is his/her coaching style?Author Who is the author? Who is the illustrator? What books have he/she written or illustrated in the past? Can we describe the style of the author/illustrator? Have I ever read other texts by this author? If so, what do I remember about those texts?
Stadium Where is the game being played? Who has the home field advantage? What are the current weather conditions? How will the weather conditions affect the game?Setting Where and when does the story take place? Is the place/time familiar or unfamiliar to us? Have we read any other stories with a similar setting?
Players Who are the key players? What positions do they play? What are their skills?Characters Who are the main characters? What role might they play in the story? Can we predict some of their character traits by examining the illustrations?
Plays What plays are the coaches likely to run? Events What events may take place in this story?
Rules/Principles of Game What are the rules of the game? What are winning strategies?Genre of Text What genre of story is this? (fairytale, folktale) Have we read other stories of the same genre? What are the characteristics of this genre?

Tell students that the class will read the story together tomorrow, and learn to ask new questions while they are reading to help understand the story.

Guided practice

Give students the opportunity to practice writing and discussing some "before" reading questions for a new story. Place students in 6 groups and have each group record or role play a "pre-reading show" for the new book, just as sports casters broadcast a pre-game show.
1. title/cover
2. author/illustrator
3. setting
4. characters
5. events
6. genre of literature

Select student leaders to guide each groups through the process of examining the cover of the new story and taking a picture walk. Allow groups to discuss their topic. Students should generate two of their own "before reading" questions on their topic, and then share their questions and provide feedback to each other. Have groups include information from their prior knowledge and personal experience as they discuss the "before reading" questions, and have them discuss the possible answers and make predictions about the book.

After each student has had the opportunity to formulate and write two questions, jigsaw the groups to form TV crews for a "pre-reading" show. Each TV crew should have six students, one student from each group, 1-6. Review the parts of the rubric. Provide a time limit for each TV show, and tell students that each show should include:

  • an introduction of the members of the TV crew

  • slogan, jingle, or music

  • a discussion of their prior knowledge about the topic

  • a discussion of each member's questions

  • predictions about the book from each member

Give groups the opportunity to practice asking and discussing their questions before role playing or videotaping their show. If time permits, allow students to make larger visual aids to display during the discussion. "Microphones" can be made quickly from rolling paper into tubes.

Sharing Ideas

Distribute rubrics to the class. Allow students to score each TV crew as they present.

Independent Practice

Have students think of a younger child that they will spend time with this week. Have them think of a book that they can read to the child. Have students use some of the "before reading" questioning strategies they learned to help the younger child understand the story. Students can use this questions framework worksheet to help them with questions to ask before reading, and help the child make predictions. The worksheet reminds students to ask questions about the title and cover, author and illustrator, setting, characters, events and genre.


Each group will be assessed using the scores from the presentation rubric, scored by their peers and teacher.

Pearson Education

Students will learn about asking questions before reading and will make predictions based on the discussion of the questions.

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Teaching Strategies
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