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To cite: Snead, W. (2022). Implementation of pre-reading assignments in the classroom. International Journal of Youth-Led Research, 2(1).
Implementation of pre-reading assignments in the classroom
As a student, when a topic is first introduced to me, I am always anxious and feel underprepared. I come into the classroom not knowing what to expect, and often am unable to keep pace with the lecture. However, in some of my classes, having pre-reading assignments has allowed me to stay more engaged with the lesson and reinforce what I learned from the pre-reading assignment, giving me a richer learning experience.
Data shows that 53% of students in the US are struggling academically or are underprepared when they step foot into the classroom (Lott, 2012). Educators and education researchers have been trying to fix this problem using various methods from innovative technology to incorporating new and creative teaching strategies. In spite of all these attempts, the overall student academic performance has changed marginally since the beginning of the century (D’Angelo, 2018). These statistics are undoubtedly worrisome to both educators and parents.
While there are several strategies suggested to improve student achievement, pre-reading assignments have been proven to be a viable solution. Research suggests that assigning pre-reading assignments is one of the most efficient strategies to improve student academic performance (Markham, 2012).
Pre-reading assignments are resources shared with students before a lecture in order to expose students to new topics (Azizifar, et al., 2015). It is an activity with many potential benefits as well as drawbacks. This explains why pre-reading assignments have yet to be universally standardized as there is no general consensus as to whether the benefits of pre-reading assignments outweigh the drawbacks (Alemi & Ebadi, 2010).
Pre-reading Assignments increase academic achievement for all students
In their experiment, Azizifar, et al. (2015) measured the extent to which vocabulary and questioning pre-reading assignments affected the reading comprehension of students at a high school in Iran. The experiment involved sixty 10th graders divided into two groups. Each group received one type of pre-reading assignment before the instructional period which lasted five weeks. At the end of the experiment, the results showed that post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores for both groups at a level of 0.05. The study concluded that teachers can create environments for successful learning by building a foundation of knowledge through pre-reading assignments. In this way, not only can students reinforce what they already know, but also move further along in their reading comprehension. A similar study conducted by Alemi & Ebadi (2010) measured the effect pre-reading assignments had on a students’ reading performance which resulted in similar findings. Their results supported the idea that pre-reading assignments did positively impact reading comprehension. Markham (2012) in their study sought to determine whether students with disabilities benefited from a variety of pre-reading strategies in reading comprehension. The participants in the study were diagnosed with a range of physical, mental, and learning disabilities. They were given several pre-reading strategies including graphic organizers, vocabulary instruction, visual representations, and the activation of prior knowledge during a two-week intervention period. Observational data showed that pre-reading strategies impacted student motivation, increased the successful activation of prior knowledge and that these strategies can be used for students with disabilities in order to increase comprehension (Markham, 2012).
Pre-reading Assignments increase student confidence
Besides academic performance, studies have shown that pre-reading assignments tend to increase student self-confidence. Azizifar, et al. (2015) noted how pre-reading assignments went further than increasing academic performance, creating an environment in which students exhibited more confidence as they engaged with the content during the lecture. Additionally, Alemi & Ebadi (2010) described how pre-reading assignments reduced any “surprises” a lecturer introduced to the students and allowed them to feel more prepared and confident when they came to class. They noted that students who completed the pre-reading assignments were far more likely to ask and answer questions during a lecture. Even when they answered incorrectly, they were not discouraged from asking and answering further questions because of this sense of preparedness.
Pre-reading Assignments increase chances of future success
A long-term benefit of pre-reading assignments is to help students define their goals for learning and their future. Research conducted by McCrudden & Schraw (2010) suggests that when instructional goals are provided to students prior to the classroom instruction, it can be a strong contributor to shaping a student’s goals for learning. This ultimately leads to an enhanced learning experience during the lecture period. Ultimately, as students set their own goals for learning, the process contributes to their aspirational goals. Students with some previous exposure to a topic are more likely to pursue it in the future. This is especially important as studies have shown that students who engage more often in the classroom tend to score higher on exams (Gammerdinger & Kocher, 2018), thus building a strong foundation for their future.
Challenges to Pre-reading Assignments Implementation
There are some challenges to using pre-reading assignments. For example, stu-dents who have little understanding on a topic may not readily grasp which ideas are significant. Therefore, some pre-reading assignments may shift student attention to ideas that are less significant in the text and missing out the main ideas (Lyons, 2017).
Pre-reading assignments are inevitably time consuming and will give students more homework (Mihrara, 2011). It is important to note that some students might have less time to spend on schoolwork than others due to extra responsibilities at home or extra curricular activities. There is no doubt that pre-reading assignments are biased against such students. Additionally, some may say that pre-reading assignments take away from a student’s valuable reading time. Pre-reading assignments are often not reading assignments, therefore, students who would typically use that time to read would instead have to do the pre-reading assignment. This brings into question what is more beneficial for the student - an extra homework assignment or reading, which would increase the student’s ability to read and write.
Additionally, pre-reading assignments can highlight some severe inequities. Stu-dents will require extra resources like chromebooks and other materials which not everyone has, thus making pre-reading assignments difficult to standardize across entire school districts (Mihrara, 2011).
Finally, pre-reading assignments can miss the main focus of lectures. In order to use pre-reading assignments effectively, teachers will need to plan their entire curriculum around pre-reading assignments. This is time-consuming, and so, what could happen is that teachers might use some existing pre-reading assignment that they can find and assign on the internet. This can lead to a variety of problems. Firstly, the pre-reading assignment would not be tailor-made for the class, thus resulting in students focusing on aspects that may not be important to the actual lecture. Secondly, the assignment may have the opposite result, in which the pre-reading assignment would focus too specifically on an area while the classroom instruction does not. All in all, a pre-reading assignment’s lack of connection with the instruction would make it unfit for such a classroom.
Summary and conclusion
In summary, even though pre-reading assignments have many potential benefits for students, one cannot ignore the challenges they present. In spite of the challenges, I would still recommend that pre-reading assignments be standardized across schools. This is because the benefits of increasing a student’s academic performance and confidence outweigh the need for extra time and additional materials. The challenges can be overcome through creative solutions. For example, in terms of technology, chromebooks are available for students to use in almost all schools in the United States. This may not be true globally, and therefore might need alternate resources like printed materials. In terms of time, pre-reading assignments should not take any longer than 20 minutes since it is nothing more than a brief overview of the lecture topic, not a replacement for the lecture itself. The fact remains, though, that some amount of time will be taken away from other student activities. Finally, pre-reading assignments, if increasingly standardized across school districts, will likely have assignments that are made specifically for the classroom lecture, resulting in more effective pre-reading assignments.
Pre-reading assignments clearly have many positive outcomes like increased academic performance, increased confidence, and helping students set their own learning goals and aspirations. This is true for all students, including students with disabilities. Undoubtedly, there are also some drawbacks, which can be overcome if educators are intentional, thoughtful, and creative. Having benefited from pre-reading assignments myself, I can say with some assurance that they should be considered as a viable option for curriculum standardization for all students.
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Azizifar, A., Roshania, S., Gowhary, H., & Jamalinesarib, A. (2014). The effect of pre-reading activities on the reading comprehension performance of Ilami High School students. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 192, 188-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.06.027
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Lott, D. L. (2012). Perceptions of college readiness and social capital of GED completers in entry-level college courses. The University of New Orleans. https://scholarworks.uno.edu/td/1460/
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Mihara, K. (2011). Effects of pre-reading strategies on EFL/ESL reading comprehension. TESL Canada Journal 28(2). https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v28i2.1072