Outline Preview


Through this activity, students preview the content of a text by examining an outline, and making prediction about the content that will fill out the outline.  They are then better prepared to understand and integrate new information as they read.  This activity can enable students to be successful in reading and understanding relatively challenging content by preparing them to anticipate content.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Questioning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Staircase of Complexity


Identify the text you would like to focus on.  This activity works well with both narratives and nonfiction, and is especially helpful with challenging texts.  Typical readers may not like to complete this activity with narratives since the outline can be a “spoiler,” but it can be very helpful for struggling or language-impaired readers preparing to read fiction.

  • Create an outline of the text.  The outline can be in whatever format seems most logical, but should include main ideas in order.  If the text includes headings/subheadings, chapter titles, numbered sections, or any other overt organizing strategies, you should reflect these in the outline.  You may want to include some subordinate details as well, and you should also leave room under each main idea for students to write.  Create 2 copies of the outline per student.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher briefly discusses the value of previewing a text. Teacher briefly review the concept of an outline. Teacher displays and reads over an outline of a brief, familiar text.

    May sure students understand that an outline summarizes the main ideas of a text, and that the structure of an outline visually represents the structure of the ideas in a text.  (So, for example, main ideas may be justified to the left, and supporting details indented). 

  2. Teacher briefly introduces the target text, and distributes the outline to the students. Students prepare to work alone or in pairs.

      If you want students to work in pairs, consider assigning them so that struggling readers can be matched with stronger readers.

  3. Alone or in pairs, students read through the outline and make predictions about the content of the text. Students write their predictions and questions in the blank spaces in the outline.
    The level of organization of your outline will likely reflect the level of organization of the text. If you are using a highly-organized textbook chapter, then your outline may be very specific.  For example, you might write “Stages of life cycle of a moss,” and then include a numbered list below that the students can fill out.  A novel or short story may be much less-organized.  For a novel or short story, you might include the major events (“A tornado picks up Dorothy’s house.” “Dorothy wakes up in Munchkinland”…), and then allow students to fill in the supporting details below each major event.
    Students should write the content that they predict in each section, as well as questions they have about each section.
  4. After completing the outline with their predictions, students read the text. As they read, they should complete the second, blank outline, with the actual content of the text.

    Some students may prefer to read the whole text once before returning to it to fill in the second outline. 

  5. Teacher leads students in a discussion about the text and the two versions of the outline.

    Ask students questions such as:

    • What were you able to predict from previewing the outline? 
    • Which predictions were supported?  Which were not?
    • Which questions could you answer when you read the text? 
    • You can also review the outline at this point, and make sure that everyone has accurately completed the outline.
  6. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • What can you learn from previewing the content of a text?
    • How does knowing what to expect affect your comprehension and learning?
    • How does using an outline affect your comprehension and learning?
    • How might you be able to adapt this activity so that you could do it more independently?
Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More