7 junio, 2024

Selective reading: concept, characteristics, types, examples

We explain what selective reading is, its characteristics, types and we give several examples.

What is selective reading?

The selective reading It consists of reading specific parts of a text, that is, something specific is selected from which information is to be obtained. The main objective is to have a general idea of ​​what the text is about. An example is, in a biography of Albert Einstein, reading only the titles of each chapter.

Selective reading or pre-reading is the first phase of reading (along with reading and post-reading) and consists of activities that prepare the student for the reading that will follow. Through these activities, the aim is to improve the comprehension of the text through the activation of the reader’s previous knowledge.

It also seeks to encourage the formation of a general idea of ​​the text and the planning of ways to deal with the reading activity. In addition to improving comprehension, the selective reading phase and the activities within it improve reading speed and accuracy, reducing time and effort.

Selective reading also clarifies to the student the purpose of the reading. The type of activity chosen for this phase will depend on the teacher’s criteria, the characteristics of the students and the type of text to be read.

Some may be skimming the text, identifying characteristics (title, author, photos, subtitles) or predicting what will be read, among others.

Characteristics of selective reading

Selective reading activities are a kind of “warm-up” before reading, and they can be very different from each other. These activities can be differentiated by the duration and the level of involvement that they require from the student.

For example, showing students photos requires less involvement on their part than asking them to relate their experiences to what they think they are going to read. The use of selective reading activities is useful because:

Stimulates students’ interest in the text, using the motivational factor to improve reading comprehension. This can be done by showing sensory stimuli related to the text (music, images, etc.) or by talking about their own experiences related to said text.
Give a reason to read, since it is normal for students not to have an intrinsic motivation to do so. Through selective reading activities, readers may discover that the text can be read for pleasure, to search for specific information, or to discover something.
Prepares the student for the language that they will encounter in the text, since it is normal that not everyone can fully understand the text, and this can make reading slower and require more effort. For this reason, selective reading activities can introduce key vocabulary, talk about the context of the reading, or other resources.

Parts of a selective reading activity

Selective reading activities are divided into two parts:

The part corresponding to the teacher
The part corresponding to the students.

For example, in a pre-reading activity the teacher’s part may be to ask students about information they have read before; and the student’s part may be to recall something she has recently seen and identify some features of that particular text.

Types of selective reading

Graphic organizers

Graphic organizers are a type of selective reading activities that display a “map” of the text to follow, allowing readers to frame the text.

Through graphic organizers, complex vocabulary can be taught and how different ideas in the text are related to each other.

There are many types of organizers, but in general they present the most important concepts in an outline, and identify the main terms to show readers relevant information before reading, and thus improve their reading comprehension.

Guides of anticipation

The anticipation guides consist of a series of statements that the student must answer. In this way, the student is expected to respond to the statements independently in order to compare whether their previous beliefs about the text are correct.

Through this, it helps to give meaning or an objective to the reading and allows students to interact previously with the text.

In this way, anticipation guides enhance comprehension by actively engaging readers in learning and focusing them on relevant concepts in the text.

The anticipation guides do not have to be used only in written format and can also be used orally, or with the necessary adaptations according to the age or ability of the readers.

impressions of history

Story Impressions are selective reading activities in which students use key words or phrases from the story to write paragraphs that summarize their impressions. After this, the students read the story and write another summary; a comparison is made below.

Through the impressions of the story, it is possible to predict what the reading will be about, which will improve reading comprehension. Also, they can start processing the text even before reading it, since they make connections before reading.

semantic mapping

It consists of a graphical representation that shows readers’ prior knowledge and is used to create categories for concepts. This activity helps readers search for background knowledge that will be useful for the reading.

Identification of structure and relevant information

Every text has a certain structure with relevant information, such as the author’s biographical note, publication information and the index. In addition, each text can have titles and subheadings that give relevant information.

Analysis of visual material

With this they will focus on the visual or schematic part that the text may have to illustrate key concepts, main ideas, supporting information, among other elements.

It is common for school texts to have different categories of visual support that allow easier access to the content of the text.

Identification of main ideas

They can read the first and last paragraph or some sentence in between, as well as use information from the structure to predict what the main idea of ​​the text is and plan how long it will take to read it.

Presentation of the text

The teacher makes a quick presentation of the text or topic to introduce students to their reading.

Selective Reading Examples

Let’s look at some examples of selective reading:

Read a single chapter of a didactic book.
Read only the subheadings of an article on a web page.
Read only a specific section of a web page. (Reading only the examples in this section would be selective reading.)
In an article about the giraffe, read only the reasons that it is in danger of extinction.
In a book on global warming, learn only about polluting gases.
In a book on social networks, learn only about its disadvantages.
Read only the first pages of a novel.
Read only the notes of a book.
Read only the index of a book.


Cunningham, D. & Shablak, S. (1975). Selective Reading Guide-O-Rama: The Content Teacher’s Best Friend. Journal of Reading, 18(5), p. 380-382.
Haque, M. (2010). Do pre-reading activities help learners understand a text better? BRAC University.
Ontario School Board (2004). Think Literacy: Cross-Curricular Approaches, Grades 7-12.
Reynolds, J.A. (1996) College Success: Study Strategies and Skills. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Williams, A.D. (2006). Using a Previewing Strategy to Enhance Reading Comprehension of Secondary Students. University of Tennessee.

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