Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

1.3: Identifying Reading Strategies and Prereading a Text

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Introduction to Reading strategies

    We are going to look at strategies you can use to read. Let's start by thinking about what you already know.

    What reading strategies do you currently use? For example, do you look at the title/subheadings first? Do you take notes as you read? Make a class list of all the reading strategies people currently use. Here are some examples:

    • I look at the title and subtitles first to get an idea of what the text is about.
    • I look at how long a text is.

    4 Ps: Purpose, preview, prior knowledge, and predict

    A helpful pre-reading strategy is called the 4 Ps: purpose, preview, prior knowledge, and predict. As you examine the four steps, consider which strategies you already use.

    1. Purpose: consider why am I reading this text? What am I expected to do with it or get out of this text? Is it to answer specific questions? Prepare for a test? Use ideas in an essay?
    2. Preview: Think of previewing a text like watching a preview or movie trailer. A movie preview captures the big picture or main idea — what the movie will be about. Previewing helps us get an overview and tap into our prior knowledge. What do we know about the topic or author, for instance? What predictions can we make?
    • check the title and any other headings
    • look for the main idea in the first paragraph or introduction
    • check the last paragraph or conclusion
    • read the first sentence of every paragraph
    • examine any graphic aids such as images, graphs, and diagrams
    • look for key terms that are boldfaced or highlighted
    1. Prior Knowledge: based on your background, what do you know about the topic?
    2. Predict: based on your initial overview, what do you expect the reading to be about? What is the writer trying to say?

    Using the 4 Ps

    Now let's use the 4 Ps to read a textbook passage.

    Try this!

    Use the 4 Ps to pre-read excerpt from the textbook, Immigrant and Refugee Families, 2nd edition.

    Reading from a textbook: "Undocumented Families"

    For families who do not have a sponsoring family member, have a sponsoring employer, or originate from a country with few immigrants, the options for legal immigration to the United States are very limited. Those families who choose to travel to the United States face substantial barriers, including a perilous trip across the border, few resources, and the constant threat of deportation. Deportation means that a person is removed from the country because they lack legal papers.

    One of the most dangerous times for undocumented families is the risky trip across the border. In order to avoid border patrol, undocumented immigrants take very dangerous routes across the United States border. The vast majority of all arrests of undocumented immigrants are on the border. For example, in 2014 ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) conducted 315,943 removals, 67% of which were taken into custody at the border (nearly always by the Border Patrol), and 33% of which were arrested throughout the U.S. (ICE, 2019). The trip and efforts to avoid Border Patrol can be physically dangerous and in some cases, deadly. Unicef estimates that more than 3,800 people have died while crossing the border since 2014. The Trump administration instituted a policy of separating families that were caught at the border including those applying for asylum. More than 2,600 children were separated from their caregivers under this policy, which was later overturned. Figure 1.2.1 shows young people protesting against family separations.

    Woman holding a sign that says "Courage" during an Immigration March.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "Immigration March in DC" by SEIU International is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

    Next, reflect on each step. What was your purpose? Which previewing strategies did you use? What knowledge do you have about this topic? What predictions did you make?

    KWL +

    The next pre-reading strategy that we will practice is known as KWL+ (what I Know, what I Want to know, what I Learned, and + what I still want to know). With this strategy, you will complete the first two columns before you read the next text and the final two columns after you have read the text. See Table 1.3.1 for an example of a KWL+ chart.

    Table 1.3.1: Four columns for reader to take notes on what I know, what I want to know, what I learned, and what I still want to know



    What I Know


    What I Want to Know


    What I Learned


    What I Still Want to Know

    Notes Take notes in this column before reading. Take notes in this column before reading. Take notes in this column during or after reading. Take notes in this column after reading.

    Using KWL+

    We will look at an excerpt from The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande (Figure 1.3.2) In this scene, Grande describes her two failed attempts crossing the Mexican-U.S. border as a 9-year-old on the back of her father, whom she had not seen in over 8 years. On their third attempt, Grande, her dad, her older sister Mago and brother Carlos, make it across the border safely. Grande has written extensively about living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, an immigrant who does not have legal papers to live in the U.S.

    A smiling woman with long brown hair speaking at a podium
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Author Reyna Grande. "Dreamer Success Story" by CSUF Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Now let's use KWL+ to read a passage from a memoir.

    Try this!

    Follow these four steps:

    1. On a piece of paper, draw a KWL+ chart.
    2. To complete the first two columns of the KWL+ table, consider the title of the book, the author’s name, and the topic of undocumented immigrants. You can write sentences, jot down questions, and/or make connections.
    3. After you have read the excerpt, complete the final two columns.
    4. Finally, share your notes with a partner or in small groups and reflect on the KWL+ process. How might you be able to apply the KWL+ process when you conduct your own research in the future?

    Reading from a memoir: The Distance Between Us

    Our first two attempts across the border were failures.

    Even now I blame myself. I was not used to walking and running so much and so fast. To make things worse, I had woken up with a toothache on the morning of our first attempt, and my father didn’t have anything to give me for the pain. Around noon I began to get a fever, and the pain became unbearable. My father ended up carrying me on his back, but still, it wasn’t long before a cloud of dust rose in the distance, and before we knew it a truck was heading our way. We rushed into the bushes, but the truck pulled over and border patrol agents got out and told us to come out from our hiding places. We were sent back to Tijuana.

    The second time we tried to cross, we had the same bad luck. Again, I couldn’t keep up with the rest of them, and the heat of the sun’s rays beating down on my head gave me a headache. Once, when we sat down to rest, I walked away to relieve myself in the bushes and found a man lying not too far from me. I thought he was asleep, but when I got closer to him, I saw the flies buzzing over him and the big bump on his forehead.

    I screamed for help. Papi arrived first, followed by the coyote, and then Carlos and Mago. Papi told Mago to shut me up before la migra heard me.

    “Is he dead?” I asked Mago as she took me away. “Is he dead?”

    “He’s sleeping, Nena. He’s just sleeping,” she said.

    We got caught shortly thereafter, and I was glad because I couldn’t get that dead man out of my head.

    Works Cited

    Ballard, Jaime, Elizabeth Wieling, Catherine Solheim, and Lekie Dwanyen. Immigrant and Refugee Families. 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, 2019.

    Grande, Reyna. The Distance Between Us. Washington Square Press, 2013.

    Licenses and Attibution

    CC Licensed Content: Original

    Authored by Marit ter Mate-Martinsen, Santa Barbara City College. License: CC BY NC.

    CC Licensed Content: Previously Published

    Reading on Undocumented Families is adapted from Immigrant and Refugee Families by Jaime Ballard, Elizabeth Wieling, Catherine Solheim, and Lekie Dwanyen. License: CC BY NC.

    All Rights Reserved

    Grande, Reyna. The Distance Between Us. Washington Square Press, 2013.