This activity guides students to preview a text effectively by drawing their attention to important textual elements, and helping them to make predictions and anticipate meaning.  Students use the acronym THIEVES, which stands for:
T: Title
H: Headings
I: Introduction
E: Every first paragraph sentence
V: Visuals and vocabulary
E: End of chapter questions
S: Summary

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Predicting
Building Background, Previewing Text

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


  • Identify the text you would like to focus on.  You should find a text that includes the text elements included in THIEVES.  This acronym is usually most appropriate for traditional textbook-style chapters.
  • Prepare a handout and/or poster that defines each element of the acronym “THIEVES.” 
  • Prepare a 2-column chart for each student.  The left column should be narrow, and should include the letters/corresponding words of the acronym “THIEVES.”  The right column should be wide. 
  • As students gain much more proficiency with this strategy, they will eventually be able to use it without relying on a graphic organizer, and instead will be able to follow the steps of THIEVES and record their observations in text annotation.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the THIEVES handout, and goes over the text elements included in each step.
    This activity will work best if students are already familiar with the text features, so you should plan on teaching them before attempting this activity.
    Tell the students that this activity is called “thieves,” since students will be “stealing information” from the text before they read it.
  2. Teacher displays a sample text, and models using the THIEVES acronym to preview the various elements of the text. Teacher thinks aloud about the information each text feature provides, and summarizes this information in the graphic organizer.
    You may want to model with a text that students are already familiar with, so that they can focus on the strategy.
    Since this is a previewing activity, you don’t actually want to model reading the text.  Instead, you want to model the steps a reader can go through to predict/anticipate meaning before reading a text.  
  3. Teacher distributes text and graphic organizers. Students prepare to work alone or in pairs.

    If you decide on pairs, it can be nice to assign pairs so that struggling readers can be supported by stronger readers.

  4. Students read the title of the text. They write the title in the “T” box on the graphic organizer, and jot down their predictions/inferences based on the title.
    Circulate as students are working, asking them about their thinking and helping to clarify any confusion.
    Ask them questions such as,:
    What do you already know about this topic?
    How will this chapter relate to chapters you have already read?
    Does the title express a point of view?  If so, what is it?
    What do you predict will be in this chapter?
  5. Students read through all the headings in the text. They jot down what they learn/anticipate/infer from these headings in the H box of their graphic organizers.
    Depending on the length of the chapter and the number of headings, students may be able to record them all and their ideas based on each one, or they may need to summarize or pick several important ones.
    As you circulate, ask students questions such as:
    Based on the headings, what information will each section contain?
    Which sections look most important?
    How can you turn these headings into guiding questions?
  6. Students read the introduction to the text. They summarize what they learned/predicted in the “I” box of their graphic organizers.
    Many textbook chapters contain an introduction that is italicized or bolded.  Other introductions may look more like the rest of the text.
    As you circulate among students, ask questions such as:
    Where is the introduction?  How can you tell?
    What are the main ideas of the introduction?
    What do you expect to read about?  What will you look out for?
    What information do you already know about this topic?
  7. Students read the first sentence in each paragraph. They summarize the most important ideas in the “E” box of their graphic organizers.
    As students are working and you circulate among them, ask questions such as:
    What are some of the topics that will be included?
    Which topics, and which paragraphs, are most important?
    What do you think you will learn about?
    Which paragraphs should you focus most on?
  8. Students examine any visuals in the text, and also any highlighted vocabulary words. Students summarize what they learn in the V section of their graphic organizer.
    Visuals can include drawings, photographs, charts, and graphs.  Students may need instruction in how to interpret some types.  Make sure students understand the role that captions play, the labeling system for images (if any), and also that they understand when the body of the text indicates that a reader should refer to an image. 
    Vocabulary may be highlighted, italicized, defined in the margin or at the beginning/end of the chapter, or featured in a special box.  Help students to identify the system in their text.
    As you circulate, ask students questions such as:
    What can each visual tell you?  What’s its main message?
    Based on the visuals, what do you predict you will read about?
    How do the captions  (or image titles/labels) help you to understand what they mean?
    Which words are highlighted?
    Which of these words do you already know?  What do you know about them?
    Based on the words, what do you think you will learn?
    Which words will you need to learn?
  9. Students read the questions at the end of the chapter. Students record their ideas in the second “E” section of their graphic organizer.
    Remind students that they should not expect to be able to answer the questions fully at this point, and the don’t need to try to answer them.  They should just think about what information they can gather from the questions themselves.
    As you circulate, ask students questions such as:
    What do the questions ask?
    Based on these questions, what do you think will be some of the main ideas of this chapter?
    Based on these questions, what predictions can you make about the chapter?
    Based on these questions, what should you look for in the chapter?
  10. Students read the chapter summary. They record their ideas in the “S” section of the graphic organizer.
    Reassure students that it’s OK if they don’t understand everything in the summary yet—they should just read and get what they can.
    They should record the information they do understand in their graphic organizers, as well as questions or notes of ideas/words/concepts to look out for.  As you circulate among students, ask them questions like:
    What does it seem like the main ideas of this chapter are?
    What material is going to be covered?
    What do you already understand from this summary?
    What does not yet make sense to you?  What do you need more information about?  What are you wondering?
  11. After completing the THIEVES protocol, students read the text.

    Students can read the text in the same timeframe, or they can do THIEVES ahead of time to prepare to read for homework or the next day.  After reading, it’s great if students refer back to their THIEVES graphic organizer to consider what they accurately predicted, what they missed, and what questions they can now answer.

  12. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.
    Students should respond to questions including:
    -Why do textbooks generally include these text features?
    -How are the text features of a textbook chapter similar and different from the text features of other genres that you commonly read?
    -How does previewing a text affect your comprehension and learning?
    -When might this activity be most useful for you?
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