You only have one chance to make a first impression when introducing children to a new book. If you introduce it in a way that is dry or that leaves your students confused about its historical context or vocabulary, you will have trouble convincing the students that the book is worth reading. Conversely, if you introduce it in a way that captivates your students' imagination and provides them with all the information they need to understand the first chapter, they will chomp at the bit to start reading.
Create a warm-up activity using any advanced vocabulary words in the book. For instance, you might give the students a series of sentences that use the vocabulary words and ask them to guess the meanings of the words based on context clues.
Activate any prior knowledge the children may have about the book's subject. Lead a simple discussion ("Who can tell me something about the Pilgrims and Indians?"), show the students a picture or object related to the story ("What holiday is this picture about? Who are the people in this picture?"), connect the story to the students' lives ("What are you planning to do for Thanksgiving this year?"). Or simply provide them with an engaging story or video that provides any necessary background information. Fill in any details the students leave out in discussion.
Show the children the cover of the book and the first few illustrations to pique their interest. Ask them what they think is going on in the pictures and invite them to make predictions of what the book is about.
Tell the students the basic premise of the book and ask them what they think will happen or what they would do in the protagonist's shoes. For instance, if you were reading "Where the Wild Things Are," tell them that Max is going to a forest full of monsters. Then ask the students what they would do if they found themselves surrounded by monsters. This will let your students identify with the protagonist, making them empathize with him.
Provide the students with a prereading "hook" that will either connect the book to their own lives and interests or encourage them to think about their own opinions on the subject matter. For instance, you might have them write a journal entry about a time they faced a situation similar to the protagonist or answer and discuss questions on an anticipation guide.
Explain briefly how the hook connects to the book you will read ("You've told me how you would create a society where everyone is happy, and in 'Brave New World,' everyone is happy, but it they had to give up a few things. . . ") before moving on to any background information or vocabulary building activities. That way, even if the students become bored by the background information, they will still be excited by the thought of finishing with it and getting to the book itself because they will associate it with the hook.
Activate students' prior knowledge about any necessary background information or historical context for the book. One possibility is to have them complete a KWL chart, which is a three-column chart asking the students to list what they know, wish to know and will learn about the topic. Another possibility is to lead them in a discussion asking what they've already learned about the topic.
Provide any necessary background information, such as historical context for the novel's setting or the author's purpose for writing. Rather than relying solely on packets of information for the students to read, include visual aids, such as maps, illustrations, photographs or video clips, so visual learners will be more able to master the information. Include human interest details to entice the students. For example, instead of providing a dry summary of the gold rush to prepare students for "The Call of the Wild," emphasize the dangers of the Yukon and the fact that only a small percentage of prospectors actually left with more money than they had when they arrived.
Introduce vocabulary words one chapter at a time. You might put the vocabulary words in sentences before reading and ask students to figure them out based on context clues, or you might have the students match the words to their definitions as they read.
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