By Doug Buehl,
Madison East High School teacher
Member, Wisconsin State Reading Association
Key words introduce students to important terms
Teen athletes ... concussions ... soccer, football, volleyball ... susceptible
... head injury ... 62,800 ... headaches, sleep disorders ... high risk
... learning disabilities.
Can you piece together the storyline implied by the above chain of key
words excerpted from a recent newspaper article? In all likelihood, by
connecting these terms and drawing upon what you already know about this
topic, you are able to successfully infer the gist of this public health
As you probably surmised, the article raises cautions about concussions
suffered by teen athletes, especially those participating in sports such
as soccer, football, and volleyball. Adolescents are more susceptible
to head injury from concussions, and a recent study estimated that 62,800
of them receive at least mild sports-related concussions each year. Symptoms
of a concussion include headaches and sleep disorders, and students with
learning disabilities are especially at risk for lingering brain injury
resulting from concussions.
By providing you with a chain of key words, I have prompted you to access
what you might know about sports concussions and perhaps piqued your curiosity
about what this article has to say about dangers for teen athletes. You
were able to form an impression of the text before you actually read it.
Story Impressions (McGinley & Denner, 1987) is a strategy that introduces
significant terms and concepts to students before they encounter them
in an assignment. The strategy involves the following steps:
Step 1: Preview a text section or story, and identify a series
of terms or short phrases (two to three words) that relate to significant
information or plot events. List the terms as they are presented in the
text, in the order students will encounter them while reading. This step
serves to cue students to recognize a sequence of events or cause/effect
relationships. Create a student worksheet with the terms arranged in a
vertical column, connected by arrows to indicate order.
For example, to prepare students for a textbook passage on geysers, a
science teacher might select a chain of terms and phrases that emphasize
how volcanic activity leads to the heating of groundwater, which can create
geysers. (See Earth Science example.)
Step 2: Next, have students work with partners to brainstorm the
possible connections among the chain of clues on their worksheets.
Using what they might know about some of the terms, they are encouraged
to make predictions about both the content of the text and the meanings
of some key words which may be unfamiliar.
In our earth science example, students can tap their knowledge about
how volcanic activity generates heat as they brainstorm possible connections
to geysers. Some students will realize that heated water builds up pressure,
and this may be an explanation for phenomena such as the Old Faithful
geyser. They may also need to form conjectures of the meanings of terms
such as igneous, fissure, and constricted as they work on their predictions.
Step 3: Students are now ready to create their own impression
of what the text may hold. In the box next to the word chains, students
write a summary paragraph of their prediction of the text. All terms from
the chain must be used in their paragraph, and students should integrate
them into their writing in the order they appear on the list. Have partners
volunteer to share their prediction summaries with the entire class.
Step 4: Now that students have encountered key terms and concepts,
activated relevant prior knowledge, and entertained predictions about
the material, they can test their impressions by reading the text selection
or story. As they read, have them check off the terms in the chain which
they accurately used in their prediction summaries.
To solidify the new learning, have students write a second summary paragraph,
again using all the terms in the order they are represented in the chain.
Have them contrast their prediction summaries with the ones they wrote
after reading the article to highlight any similarities between their
impressions and the actual text.
Story impressions introduce students to essential terminology and information
before they become immersed in reading. In addition,
- Students marshal what they know about a topic and brainstorm possible
connections to the new material.
- Students receive guidance in two comprehension tasks that are often
difficult: determining importance and summarizing.
- After sufficient practice, students can be asked to create their own
chains of key terms as a comprehension activity and for use as story
impressions to prepare their classmates for a new selection.
McGinley, W. & Denner, P (1987). Story Impressions: A Prereading
/ Writing Activity. The Journal of Reading. December, 248-253.
Posted November 3, 1999