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Pre-reading Knowledge Activation in Speech Therapy

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Hi friend!

This post is all about the first step in the literacy-based therapy framework: Pre-story Knowledge Activation! You may also see it referred to as pre-reading activities or pre-story activities.

The goal of this phase is to see what the student knows about a topic or theme, and to get them thinking about it!

By engaging in a meaningful discussion, we can support students with incorporating new knowledge into an existing schema (i.e. what they already know about the theme or topic).

And this is an evidence-based strategy!

How does it work?

Start by engaging in a discussion to see what students know about the target topic or theme.

You can make your discussion even more meaningful by incorporating the use of language stimulation strategies (e.g. recast, expansion, etc.) to support grammar and syntactic skills.

During your discussion, you may wish to incorporate use of the book cover, illustrations in the book, or other visuals (e.g. adaptive book visuals, picture cards that relate to the story).

After an initial discussion, you can incorporate use of interactive activities (e.g. graphic organizers, book walk, word cloud, semantic mapping) to spark further discussion and activate knowledge.

Pre-reading activities not only serve to activate knowledge, but they also give us an opportunity to fill in gaps in students’ background knowledge that will be helpful with comprehending the text.

During your pre-reading activities, you can pre-teach key concepts, like vocabulary words or story elements. For example, if the story takes place during winter in a snowy landscape but your students have never seen snow, you may wish to discuss snow related vocabulary, look at pictures of snow in the book or on the internet, and even watch videos on YouTube people playing in the snow.

This step can last for a whole therapy session, or two!

Pre-story knowledge activation ideas:


Graphic organizers provide students with a visual representation of key idea/concepts and vocabulary that are important for understanding the story.

For example, if you are reading a story about camping, you might map and discuss camping, forests, activities people do when camping, etc.


After the mapping out important concepts or vocabulary words, facilitate a discussion by asking questions that tie the concepts to the story:

  • Story elements (e.g. main character, setting, problem, plan, consequence, etc.)

  • Main idea

  • Theme

  • Moral


Discuss the pictures in the book, have students describe what they see, and ask questions that guide the students through the main story line.

Hope this has been helpful! 🧡


Ukrainetz, T. A. (2006). Contextualized Language Intervention: Scaffolding Prek-12 Literacy Achievement (1st ed.). Pro Ed.


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