Sunday, June 8, 2014


Some Sample Pre-Reading Questions

I've written about using simulations in the class to help students open their schemata, I've also talked about why this is important (if you missed that you can read more at this blog post). Just like you should stretch before you sprint, warming up your students' brains with some pre-reading activities is key.

Many teachers suggest you do things like look at the headlines, read the first lines, etc. I agree these are great skills, but one of my favorite things to do with fiction is get my students really thinking about the topic or theme (even before we've read the short story!).

For example, with Richard Matheson's "Button Button," an obvious series of questions would be, 
1. "If you could get a million dollars by pressing a button, would you do it?" 
2. "What if by pressing the button, someone would die?"
3."What if it would be someone you didn't know?"
4. "What if you would see them die?"
5. "What if it were a gun, but you knew they were a bad person?"
etc. etc.

You could mark one wall in your classroom as yes, and another wall as no. Ask the question then give the students a bit to choose a wall. Once they have settled ask one or two students why they feel that way. Then ask the next question. Be sure to ask some students that switched sides, and some students who stayed at the same wall.

If you think students may be influenced by their friends you could do this silently. Use the Socratic app, or have students put their head down and answer via raising their hands. 

Before asking the previous (more focused) questions some fun discussion questions would be:

1. What would you do for $50,000? In at least 50 words write about what the most dramatic thing you would do for $50,000. (For example. Would you eat a live baby octopus? Would you wash the dishes every night for a year? Would you wear the same underwear for a month?) Be sure to explain why this would be dramatic for you and why you wouldn’t do anything more dramatic.

2. Knowing only the title (Button, Button) write a 75 word teaser (usually found on the back of a book) describing what you think the story will be about.

3. Read the following headline: “Headline about wife hiring a hit man” Without knowing anything else write a news article at least 50 words long.

You could discuss these in class or assign them as writing assignments (to give students time to formulate their answers) and then go over their answers in small groups and finally as a full class the next day.

As you can see most of these questions are about the moral dilemma presented in Richard Matheson's, Button Button"

Another interesting discussion to bring in the class is, "The Trolley Problem,"

I would suggest you play the first 39 seconds of the video and ask students what they would do. Have them answer on their own, share with a partner and finally discuss it as a class. Then listen to the next 30 seconds where people give their answers in the video and the video explains why most people answer this way. Starting at 1:06 they explain the second scenario. Listen to this and stop the video at 1:37. Ask the students what they would do? MOST students will change their minds. See if you can figure out why. Then listen to the rest of the video.

Even though the scenario is quite different than "Button Button," we can get our students' minds prepared for the moral dilemma in, "Button Button," by having them listen to this problem.

If you end up using Button Button in your classroom, you can get more writing prompts to be used during or after reading at Teachers Pay Teachers. It is a great short story to get your students thinking about morals and ethics!

When creating your own activities I would advise you 1. Figure out what you want your students to be thinking about when reading 2. Figure out what may be difficult for them to read (vocabulary, grammar, idioms, etc.) 3. Think of what they need to know to best understand the story.

That's it! Once you have thought about what you want them to know, you can figure out the best activities to do before you read. Best of luck!

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