Whether you are planning a trip, getting ready to prepare a complicated recipe, or starting on a project for work, preparation is an important first step and is crucial to success. It's the same thing for reading new material for school. Students who take the time to prepare before beginning to read -- a process called frontloading -- will get more from their reading and retain the information better. Frontloading can include scanning the material for main ideas, important details, themes, structure, and tone; researching new vocabulary; accessing or building background knowledge connected to the topic at hand; and creating or locating related visuals.
Here are some of the ways we suggest students engage in frontloading:
- Think about the topic before starting to read, taking time to consider any prior knowledge that you may have about the topic.
- Do an internet search on the subject prior to reading grade-level material. For fictional texts, you can read condensed texts like CliffsNotes or SparkNotes. This will provide you with prior knowledge and give you more of a sense of mastery when you try to read the more challenging text. You should also scan the text for any new and challenging vocabulary.
- Before reading the assigned text, review any questions at the end of the chapter or which the teacher may have given out
- Learn how to use information in textbooks, since they already have built-in cues to help determine important points. For example, make note of all titles and headings; scan for important information in pictures and captions; and look for key terms, concepts, or people that may be italicized, underlined, or written in bold type.
- Consider developing a written and/or visual time line for historical and narrative events. This activity can improve your appreciation of time sequences and causal reasoning.
- Consider using the website WordSift. This site will help you preview challenging text by identifying the key vocabulary, locating relevant images, and using the example source sentence feature to “skim” the text.
Not all of these frontloading strategies will be helpful for every student, but trying them out and figuring what works for you can be a good first step to mastering challenging reading material.