Pre-Reading and Three-Reading

The last post celebrated the benefits of rereading texts. This post delivers the promised rereading activity that you can use on your own or with a small group if you are an autodidact, or, if you are a teacher, can conduct in class or assign to students.

If you’ve tried adding a bunch of different sounds to the beginning of rereading, you’ve probably found that the ones that work best are a /p/ sound and a /th/ sound, yielding pre-reading and three-reading.  (/f/ isn’t bad, either—free-reading—but that’s for another post.)

Good readers and teachers have long used pre-reading activities to heighten the joys and benefits of reading a particular text.  Here are examples of pre-reading activities:

1. Look at illustrations found in or related to the text.
2. Discuss a related topic.
3. Ask people who have read and enjoyed the text why they like it.
4. Skim the text for what seem like key concepts and discuss them.
5. Summarize the text.
6. Preview a quirky detail from the text.
7. If the text is in a book designed for learners and includes glosses of difficult words, skim the glosses, not in order to learn the words right then, but in order to get a feel for concepts that appear in the text.

It’s not hard to convince yourself or students that these things can boost understanding and enjoyment of a text. It can be hard, however, to convince yourself or students simply to read a text several times, so here follows a straightforward rereading activity. For many more pre-reading, reading, and post-reading ideas, see Keith Toda’s post for the ages.

Three-Reading follows Pre-Reading. By the end of the activity, the reader will have been through the text at least three times, each time with a slightly different purpose.  The details are explained in the downloadable documents below, but here’s a summary:
1. Cursive (“running”) Read: Read the text fast from beginning to end, not pausing to look up or worry about unknown words or difficult sentences.
2. Intensive Read: Read the text slowly from beginning to end, pausing to look up, figure out, or ask about unknown words or difficult sentences.
3. Extensive Read: As soon as possible after the Intensive Read, read the text from beginning to end just as fast as in the Cursive Read, but with the increased understanding afforded by the Intensive Read. Repeat as motivated.
(Intensive and Extensive Reading are terms used in literacy-building to refer roughly to “slow reading for the sake of analysis” and “fast reading for the sake of content-grasping or enjoyment,” respectively. Technically, the definition of Extensive Reading includes a high volume reading, which one doesn’t usually get in Three-Reading. More on Intensive and Extensive reading here.)

For your own benefit or as a class assignment, you might use the Pre-Reading and Three-Reading Log, explained in the document below, which both holds the reader accountable to rereading and fosters self-reflection about the reading process.

NOTE: Three-Reading should only be used to get extra benefits from short texts that call for Intensive Reading. Texts that are easy enough to be part of Extensive Reading should be read with speed and joy, without any strings attached. Three-Reading is work. It is a transparent ploy to encourage an activity, rereading, that would be just about as helpful without all the work. Therefore, I find Three-Reading especially helpful for these purposes:

(a) Providing structure for learners who feel the need for procedural activities or for having produced something.
(b) Giving learners things to do with a text in the absence of a teacher.
(c) Gauging the difficulty of a text for you or your students, as an aid in future text selection.
(d) For advanced and highly motivated readers, eking out every detail of a text.
Three-Reading as a class activity
At the same time, I recommend that teachers think of all reading-related lessons in terms of the Pre-Reading and Three-Reading outline.  The steps don’t always need to be conducted by an individual learner and logged in a document.  The Cursive and Extensive Reads, for instance, might involve partners reading the text aloud to each other.  There are lots of fun, memorable ways to assist students or help them assist each other during the Intensive Read. If the text is a story, the Extensive Read might consist of students acting it out.  If you are one of the many teachers who uses hand signs to stand for certain vocabulary and morphology, the Extensive Read might involve one person reading the story aloud while others make the pertinent hand signs.

What is important is that students have at least one opportunity to understand the entire text without needing to pause for help during that particular time reading the text.  Moving on from a text before this has happened won’t quite negate the value of whatever else has been done, but will prevent learners from coming close to the benefits they could have achieved.


Happy rereading!


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  1. Justin
    I am reading “Fabulae Syrae”. They are stories that I am not familiar with. So Pre-reading means looking up the story on Wikipedia, so I understand what the story is about. Then I read the story usually 7 times, but sometimes more (until I can move my hands and read with expression). After I have read the story a few times and know the story and some vocabulary from the story, I look the story up on Vicipaedia (and or variousl old readers like Julia, or Piazza) and see if I can make sense of it written with different words and details, and start adding details and vocabulary from these to the original sotry. (I haven’t tried recording myself yet 🙂
    I’ve only been re-reading for the last 6 weeks or so, it has made a huge difference. Thank you so much.
    Jim (Jacobulus).

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