15 Pre-Reading Tasks for the ESL Classroom

To get your reading lessons off to a great start, let’s look at 15 pre-reading activities.

Teachers usually follow a framework to teach reading, which has three stages:

Stages of a Reading Lesson include the Pre-reading Stage, the While-Reading Stage, and the Post-Reading Stage.

Students prepare for the actual reading in the Pre-Reading section by doing activities and exercises

Learn why and how these activities contribute to the reading process



Why are Pre-reading Tasks Important?

In a reading lesson, pre-reading activities are crucial.

Reading lessons should begin with activities that activate background knowledge and prepare students for reading.

By activating relevant schemata and motivating students to read, pre-reading activities help them prepare for the reading activity.

Students can also benefit from pre-reading activities by anticipating the text’s topic, vocabulary, and grammar structures.

If students do not complete pre-reading tasks, they will feel frustrated about knowing vocabulary and completing tasks merely for the sake of completing classwork.


List of Pre-Reading Tasks

You can do many pre-reading activities in the classroom. There are more than we can imagine.

As a community of teachers becomes more creative, more activities are created to meet the needs and interests of its diverse members.

You can implement or modify these pre-reading activities based on the needs of your students.


Task #1: Discussion

Creating a discussion about the topic is the first pre-reading activity.

A teacher prepares four sentences expressing opinions about the topic and sticks them in four corners of the classroom.

They stand near the opinion they disagree with the most and the group of students explain why they disagree with the opinion.

Following that, students stand near the opinion they agree with most and have a short discussion.


Task #2: I’m Listening to You

You reveal the topic of the reading passage to your students

Students make pairs. One person talks while the other listens for one minute.

After students have spoken and listened to each other, they can switch roles and partners


Task #3: Quote Collection

In the third activity, you will be using quotes from great books or films.

There are a lot of quotes available on Good Reads, a very popular site for readers.

Ask students to form groups of three and discuss a quote about the topic you will be covering.


Task #4: Guessing the Topic

Before students read the text, the teacher writes five or six words from the text on the board and asks them to guess the topic.

Ideas are brainstormed on the whiteboard for everyone to see and remember.

Additionally, the teacher can conduct a poll to see if students like the ideas brainstormed by other students.

In the end, the teacher confirms how close or far they were with their guesses


Task #5: Guessing Based on Pictures

Three pictures or objects related to the story or reading are found by the teacher.

The teacher shows the pictures or objects and asks learners “How do those pictures and images relate to each other?”

Lastly, students read the text and determine if their connections to the story were correct.


Task #6: Pictionary

Choose a few keywords from the text.

Organize the class into two or three groups.

A learner from each group comes to the whiteboard (at the same time)

A word is given to them and they must draw that word without using any letters or numbers.

As a result, the other students earn points for their team by guessing the word.


Task #7: Guessing Based on Sentences

During the reading passage, the teacher dictates three sentences. Students write them down and check them with a friend to make sure they are correct

The sentences are written on the board to confirm if they are correct.

Then, the teacher asks how these sentences are related.

To confirm their predictions, students read the text quickly.


Task #8: Words You Know

The teacher prepares the board by writing the letters of the alphabet in 3 or 4 columns.

Standing behind each other, the students form two lines.

Use 2 colored markers so you know which team wrote what. The first student at the front of each team gets the board marker.

The teacher introduces a topic to the class.

Students move to the board and write a word related to the topic next to the letter it begins with, then pass the marker to the next student in their team and go to the back.

In three minutes, the two teams must write as many words on the board as possible.

The team with the most appropriate and correctly spelled answers wins!


Task #9: Speed Chatting

Ask one or two simple questions related to the reading.

Ask the students to make two rows facing the students from the other row

Then, give your learners 60 seconds to ask each other questions about the topic.

After 60 seconds, one of the rows rotates so each learner has a new partner.

Several times should be repeated.


Task #10: Video

First, find a short video related to the topic of the reading. A three-minute video would be ideal.

Prepare some simple discussion questions after watching the video.

After watching the video, ask the students to talk with a partner about what they learned.


Task #11 Brainstorming

Students share all their knowledge about the topic after the teacher gives them the title of the reading.

Using this activity, learners can create expectations about what they will read, then see if their expectations were met.

If you have to teach about the influence of social media on teenagers, students can take turns and talk about the topic.

Their expectations will be confirmed when they read the passage.


Task #12: True or False

Again, let’s look at the influence of social media on teenagers.

Bring a few statements to the classroom and ask if they are true or false.

Don’t confirm if their answers are right or wrong, they will have a chance to confirm their answers when they read the passage


Task #13: Introducing Vocabulary

Students in an ESL classroom should always be introduced to key vocabulary so they don’t get discouraged by unknown words when they are reading a passage

A vocabulary introduction doesn’t have to be boring.

You can easily create a wordle with key vocabulary and tell you what they mean.

Wordwall is another tool that can help you study or present new vocabulary.


Task #14: KWL Charts

Have you ever used KWL Charts?

KWL charts are quite simple to create or get

Students should write everything they know about the topic (K column), everything they want to know (W column), and what they learned after reading (L column).


Task #15: Debate

Prepare some controversial quotes related to the topic students will be reading.

Ask students to comment on the quotes. Find out how students feel about them.

Ask the class to comment on opposite views held by other learners.


Task #16: Pre-reading

Phonetically transcribed words can also be used to introduce vocabulary to students.

The Cambridge Online Dictionary provides phonetic transcriptions.

To show students the phonetic transcriptions, you can use several online tools such as Wordwall or Quizlet

Show a set of phonetically transcribed words, ask students to figure out what the transcribed word is, and figure out how they relate to the topic.


Task #17 Vocabulary Exploration

Select 8-10 keywords from the reading material that might be challenging for ESL students.

Write each word on the board or prepare flashcards with the words and their definitions.

Divide the class into pairs or small groups.

Distribute the words or flashcards among the groups.

Instruct each group to discuss the meaning of their assigned words and try to create sentences using those words.

After a few minutes, gather the whole class and ask each group to present their assigned words and sentences.

Clarify any misconceptions and reinforce the correct usage of the vocabulary.


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