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Prewrite Questions


In this activity students survey the text and create questions they think the text was designed to answer. During reading, students will try to answer their questions. The questions help set a purpose for reading. This activity works particularly well with non-fiction texts.

Learning Strategies 

  • Questioning
Assessing Prior Knowledge, Problem Solution

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Building Background
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Staircase of Complexity


Select a text. Select a portion of the text to use for modeling. Provide students with highlighters or colored pencils for marking text. (Optional)

Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce Prewrite Questions.

    Discuss with students: · When you are reading a text, does it matter if you have questions to answer about the text? · Does that change your approach to reading?

  2. Model surveying a text.

    Model surveying a text for students by thinking aloud your process. What do you look for as your survey a text? You can show students how you read the introduction; look at titles, images, and subtitles; and make use of the text features. If the text is fiction, they may want to examine the book jacket cover and chapter titles.

  3. Model writing questions.

    Model writing questions based on the text you surveyed. The questions can be a mixture of open and closed questions. Think aloud your process for writing the questions. How did you incorporate the information from surveying the text into your questions?

  4. Students survey the text.

    Highlighters can be useful here with strict instructions to do a minimal amount of highlighting when surveying the text. Giving students a guideline to only highlight five words or phrases can be helpful.

  5. Students write questions.

    There could be a component of peer review included here where students share their questions with a partner before actually using them.

  6. Students read the text and answer their questions.

    They can answer using blank paper, a two- sided chart with their questions and answers embedded, or in paragraph form.

  7. Conduct small group discussion.

    In small groups students discuss the text, the questions they asked, and the answers they found. · What similarities or differences emerged among the members of the group? · Did you ask or answer similar or different questions?

  8. Reflect.

    Students can reflect individually or as a group, orally or in writing. · How did surveying the text and writing questions prior to reading help you better understand the text? · When might you use this strategy again?

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

Students can use Prewrite Questions in the math classroom to help them survey a lesson in a textbook and then do a more thorough reading with the set of student-developed questions to guide them. As part of this process, help students preview a math text by identify typical math text structures such as definitions, worked examples, and real world connections.

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