Areas of Expertise


Adolescent Literacy

Reading Strategies

Strategy: PReP

Langer, J. A. (1980). Relation between levels of prior knowledge and the organization of recall. In M. Kamil & A. J. Moe (Eds.), Perspectives in reading research and instruction Twenty-ninth Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 28-33). Washington, DC: The National Reading Conference.

Langer, J. A., & Nicholich, M. (1981). Prior knowledge and its effect on comprehension. Journal of Reading Behavior, 13(4), 375-378.


PReP provides students with the opportunity to engage in a group brainstorming session about material to be read or as an introduction to a learning experience, such as a field or film. By participating in this activity prior to reading, they learn to make associations and connections about a topic and to reflect and reformulate the ideas they shared. PReP is an effective strategy to be used with students who think they know little about the topic because this technique helps them access relevant information they do possess. Thus, their learning is maximized. For students who know a lot about the topic, using PReP helps them determine what is important or not.


  1. Use some kind of stimuli (picture, questions) to encourage brainstorming. Questions that might be asked would include "What do you think of ...?" "What might you see, feel, or hear ...?" or "What might be going on ...?"
  2. The teacher writes these ideas on the board, overhead, or chart.
  3. The students engage in reflection of any associations between the brainstormed ideas. By doing this, it is hoped that they will be better prepared to understand how these associations of ideas pertain to the material to be read. A question that might be asked during this part of the session might be "What made you think of ...?"
  4. During the last step of this strategy and before the material is read, the teacher asks the question, "Have you any new ideas about ...?" This is important so students can make any revisions, changes, deletions, or additions to the list.
  5. Throughout the entire process, it is important that the teacher is inquisitive and accepting rather than critical and evaluative.


  1. A teacher wants to compare the five classes of complex invertebrates and decided to conduct a PReP activity on insects. The teacher asks the students, "What comes to mind when you hear the word 'insects?' Why?" The students come up with ideas while the teacher writes them on the board.

    Examples: wings, bite, insects are gross!, three body parts, antennae, six legs, spiders, they destroy stuff

  2. Next, the teacher asks the students how they came up with their ideas. (This is chance for the students to clarify, revise, accept, and integrate their ideas.)


    Teacher: "Mary, you said 'wings.' Why?"
    Mary: "Because a lot of insects fly, so they have to have wings."
    Teacher: "Okay, can you name some insects that fly?"
    Mary: "Bees, lightning bugs, flies."
    Teacher: "Trang, you said, "Insects are gross." What made you think of that?
    Thang: I was thinking about a time when I was living in Florida and a cockroach flew into my room and landed on my bed while I was sleeping. When I opened my eyes, all I could see were these antennae moving, and I screamed.

  3. After students elaborate on the knowledge they have about all of the words they generated on the list, the teacher asks the students to use the list and the discussion to think of associations they have made.


    Teacher: "Now that we have an idea about insects after talking about them for a while, have you come up with any new ideas? Bill, what made you think of spiders?"
    Bill: "I HATE spiders! They are nasty bugs."
    Stacey: "Don't spiders have eight legs?"
    Class: "Oh, yeah!"
    Teacher: "Well, that's interesting. If a spider has eight legs, then is it an insect?"
    Paul: "I have a question. Amy said insects destroy stuff, but don't bees carry pollen around so flowers can grow or something like that?"
    Amy: "Oh yeah! We read a book about that last year. They carry pollen from flower to flower so they can grow!"

Created with assistance by Tamara Jetton.


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