Pre-reading to teach ESL reading classes

You should use pre-reading activities to help your ESL or ELL students prepare for any reading activity. Pre-reading helps ELL students anticipate what might come up in the reading. Here is an example of an ESL lesson that includes Pre-reading.

Pre-reading helps students feel confident and less afraid of a new text. It can help you scaffold the lesson by preparing your student for the language, vocabulary, or grammar that they will find in the text. In addition, if done in the right way, it can encourage the learners to want to read and maybe even increase their motivation to read.

Pre-reading checklist

1. Explore the Cover




2. Explore the Illustrations

Ask students to talk about the pictures on the cover pictures in the book. What do they see? Do they like the pictures? How does thee illustration make them feel?

3. Make Guesses


What do you think the box will be about?

4. Introduce the Characters

Introduce the characters in the story

5. Learn relevant key vocabulary

Learn the words or grammar structures that might be needed to understand the story. Pay special attention to any phrasal verbs that might not be obvious to ELL like “pick up the conversation” or “check up on the kids” and such.

Here are more Pre-reading Tasks for your ESL class
1. Give a purpose

Give the students a purpose for completing the reading. This can be in the form of some discussion questions about the content prepared by the teacher. Give the questions to the students before they read the text. Ask them to read them and then while they are reading the text, they should prepare answers to these discussion questions. When they have read the text, they then discuss the questions with a partner.

2. Brainstorm

Introduce a brainstorming activity that relates to the story. Ask the students to write possible words that could relate to the topic of the book. You can make brain maps or lists of related verbs or so on.

Bottom Line

Use pre-reading tasks during ESL classes in which you introduce a written text. Explore the elements of the cover, keywords from the story, and topics of the story to prepare your student for reading success.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

Related Keywords: EFL teaching reading, pre-reading strategies, pre-questioning, scaffolded reading tasks, reading comprehension, schema theory, vocabulary pre-teaching

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Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.