The purpose of pre-reading is to activate prior knowledge in an attempt to boost comprehension of the text. Simply introducing a book to students it often not enough to spark their interest and engage them in the text. Pre-reading strategies allow for discussion and help the reader gain more interest in the subject or text she is about to read. There are many pre-reading strategies, but one of the most effective is brainstorming.
In a typical brainstorming session, students are shown the cover or given the title of a text and asked to think of all the things the book may be about. Nothing is off-limits. Whatever comes to the student's mind should be recorded on a whiteboard or chart paper. Discussion of the ideas should follow to allow students to create further understanding and clarify anything they don't understand. The possibilities that result from a brainstorming session will often help the reader make connections with his own life experiences, thus engaging her and giving her a stronger purpose for reading.
Brainstorming initiates problem solving behavior and ignites critical thinking skills in students. After a brainstorming session, students are no longer reading for the sake of reading, they are reading to discover if the ideas they brainstormed have any merit. By reading in this way, they pay closer attention to the events and information in the text and are able to break the text down to notice subtleties of plot, action and resolution.
Although brainstorming was originally developed for use in groups, the same principles can be applied to individual readers. Some studies have indicated that individuals who brainstorm often come up with more creative ideas than those who brainstorm in groups. Whatever the setting, the ideas a reader voices during an individual brainstorming session should be recorded and discussed in order to clarify any misinterpretations.
Group brainstorming allows the creativity of many minds to shine through, giving each individual of the group some ownership while reading. The advantages of group brainstorming in the pre-reading stage are also to activate prior knowledge, engage the students in the task at hand and contribute to critical thinking skills. Discussion, again, is an important part of brainstorming and should not be neglected. By discussing the students' ideas, engagement and sense of purpose is heightened, creating a reader who will think critically and comprehend more completely than one who has not activated prior knowledge.
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