14 Essential Pre-Reading Questions for the ESL Classroom

Reading is a fundamental skill that opens doors to knowledge, imagination, and personal growth.

As educators, one of our primary responsibilities is to guide our students on their reading journeys, helping them develop not only the ability to decode words but also the capacity to comprehend, analyze, and critically engage with the text.

One powerful way to achieve this is by asking pre-reading questions that activate prior knowledge, stimulate curiosity, and prepare students for a deeper exploration of the text.

In this post, we’ll explore 14 essential pre-reading questions to ask your students, along with strategies for using them effectively to enhance comprehension.

1. What Do You Already Know About the Topic?

Start by tapping into your students’ prior knowledge. Ask them to share what they already know about the subject matter or topic of the reading material. This helps establish a cognitive framework for understanding the text.

2. Why Are We Reading This?

Set the context for the reading by explaining the purpose. Whether it’s for enjoyment, research, or learning, knowing why they are reading a particular text can motivate students and provide a sense of direction.

3. What Do You Predict Will Happen in the Text?

Encourage students to make predictions about the content based on the title, headings, or any introductory information. Predictions activate schema and foster anticipation.

4. Can You Identify the Main Idea or Goal of This Reading?

Help students focus on the primary objective of the text. Understanding the main idea provides a foundation for organizing information and grasping the author’s intent.

5. Who is the Author, and What Do You Know About him or her?

Explore the author’s background and credentials. Understanding the author’s perspective and motivations can offer valuable context for interpreting the text.

6. Are There Any Key Vocabulary Words or Concepts You Don’t Understand?

Highlight unfamiliar vocabulary words or concepts. Encourage students to look up or discuss these terms before diving into the reading to prevent comprehension hurdles.

7. How Does This Text Relate to Your Life or Interests?

Connect the reading material to your students’ lives and interests. Personal relevance can increase engagement and foster a deeper connection with the text.

8. What Questions Do You Already Have About the Text?

Invite students to express their curiosity by sharing questions they have about the reading material. These questions can serve as guideposts for their exploration.

9. Can You Make Connections to Other Texts, Films, or Experiences?

Encourage students to draw connections between the current text and other media or personal experiences. This enhances comprehension and extends learning beyond the page.

10. What Are Your Initial Impressions of the Text’s Tone and Style?

Discuss the author’s writing style and tone. Is it formal, informal, persuasive, or informative? Understanding these aspects can aid in interpreting the text’s nuances.

11. Are There Any Visual Elements, Such as Images or Charts, That Stand Out?

For texts with visual elements, prompt students to analyze images, charts, graphs, or diagrams. These visuals can provide additional context and insights.

12. What Do You Think the Key Takeaways Might Be?

Encourage students to think critically about what they expect to learn from the reading. This helps them establish goals for comprehension.

13. How Might Different Perspectives Influence the Interpretation of This Text?

Foster critical thinking by discussing how various perspectives or backgrounds might affect interpretations of the text. This encourages empathy and open-mindedness.

14. What Are Your Initial Reactions or Emotions Toward the Text?

Finally, ask students to share their initial emotional responses. Do they feel excited, curious, or apprehensive? Emotions can influence how we engage with a text.

Manuel Campos, English Professor

Manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of EnglishPost.org, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English