Most tasks or activities in school, e.g., studying for a test, writing essays or reports, or completing complex math problems, require the student to preview the task before starting to work. Previewing enables students to plan ahead, rather than jumping into a task or activity without thinking. Students who preview actively think about what a task requires or what their work will look like when finished, creating a picture in their mind of the final product. Having a picture of the final product helps students choose strategies to more effectively complete the task. It also helps them have a model to strive for while working, and to judge how closely the final product matches their prediction.
Here are some strategies for enhancing a student’s previewing skills.
- Provide students with models of assignments to give them a sense of how a final product might look. For example, make work from last year available and draw students’ attention to specific qualities of the work, e.g., “Notice that the students who received an ‘A’ did…, students who received a ‘B’ did…”, etc.
- Engage students in active planning activities, such as setting long and short term goals, brainstorming strategies that may help meet goals, selecting the best strategy, and self-monitoring. Keep in mind the abilities of particular students, e.g., completing 20 math problems is as much a goal for some students as is reading 4 books and writing a report.
- Provide students with explicit guidelines for planning activities and self-monitoring during the activity, e.g., “Planning for 5 minutes will help you to…, Every 5-10 minutes you will need to stop and check to see if your plan is still working,” etc.
- Have students stop and actively plan before starting tasks, instead of planning as they go. Have students state the goals of each task and the strategies that they will use to complete the task, describing their plans to each other. Have students to create flowcharts, or road maps, that illustrate the process they will use to complete a task.
- Encourage students to think about the role of previewing in social relationships. Predict the outcome of different approaches to problems or social situations. Then role play the impact positive and negative comments might have on friends and other students in these situations.
- Provide students practice with making predictions while they’re learning. For example, use prediction charts in reading to help students organize their predictions and maintain them for later reflection, use story starter activities in writing where students contribute the rest of a story based on the beginning, use historical events in social studies in which students make predictions before learning the actual outcomes, or have students estimate answers to math problems and science experiments before doing the actual solving.