Using Concept Maps when Previewing before Reading

David Caverly image By Dr. David C. Caverly

This piece is republished from Dr. David C. Caverly’s Website with the author’s permission. 

Previewing and Concept Mapping

An important lesson I have learned over 40 years of teaching strategic reading to college developmental students has been they often come to me having been toldwhat strategies  to use, such as Previewing a text before reading.  Consequently, many have learned the declarative knowledge of what Preview strategies are and encouraged to use them before reading.  Seldom, however, have students been taught how to use the steps of a Previewing strategy (through procedural knowledge; Paris, Lipson, & Wixson, 1983); to monitor when the Previewing strategy is most effective and when it is not (through meta-cognitive knowledge); and to realize where a Previewing strategy is useful, such as in certain genres of text, or where the Previewing strategy might need to be adapted for other genres (through conditional knowledge).

Rarely have students been taught why a Previewing strategy will be more effective when they choose (through volitional knowledge) to combine an understanding-based strategy  with a remembering-based strategy.  That is, combining multiple strategies into a self-regulated strategic approach to Previewing develops multiple benefits for students.  It helps them understand what they will be reading with Previewing, but it also helps them remember what was read, as well as how it is organized when creating a Concept Map as they Preview (Schroeder, Nesbit, Anguiano, and Adesope, 2018).

This blog will suggest 1 additional lesson with 3 additional activities you can use to help your students understand this how and whyprocess when teaching a strategic approach by adding concept maps to Previewing before reading expository texts.

Lesson 1: Start with the resources present in the Preview module as they are very useful. For example, the Previewing lesson presents 8 excellent steps about what students should preview prior to reading a text and explains 3 benefits from using them.

Activity 1: Follow up with the questions available in the Preview Activity module to confirm students understand the 8 strategies and the 3 benefits.

Lesson 2:Additionally, I have found it useful to guide students through how to learn to use Preview Concept Mapping by modeling for them how to create a handwritten, or digital concept map (similar to what is proposed in the Hoot’s Intern’s Corner: Concept Mapping blog).  Evidence has suggested using previewing with concept maps will solidify their new procedural knowledge greater than previewing without a concept map (Khajavi & Abbasian, 2013).  Modeling for students how to use Preview Concept Mapping creates two additional benefits before reading as it provides a visual source to organize the information gathered through previewing as well as it provides a place to determine what information is known and what information is unknown.

To model how to use Preview Concept Mapping for strategic reading, I have found it useful to teach explicitly using a Gradual Release of Responsibility instructional process (Pearson & Gallagher, 1973, 2011). Here, responsibility for learning is placed on the teacher as he/she models for student(s) how a given strategy is used through explicitly demonstrating the steps in the strategy within an authentic text.  Next, the responsibility for learning is shifted to the student(s) through a guided practice experience where they apply the steps in a second authentic text and are monitored individually by the teacher (or in a classroom by their peers).  Finally, the learning is evaluated by the student as he/she uses the strategy through independent practice using a different genre and without the support of the teacher.  To foster this process, I have found using a considerate text (i.e., well structured, guided text) in this teaching process fosters the learning for the student as they are not hindered by less-than considerate, or inconsiderate text where some of the 8 elements are not present.

Activity 2 – Modeling Previewing with Concept Maps: To begin this activity, download Section 2.2 Religious upheavals in the developing Atlantic world which is a free, open-source, online section of a chapter within a college History text.  This is an excellent example of a considerate text.  If you would rather use a “hard copy” as a pdf, go to this same site and download the entire book by clicking on Get This Book.  This will allow you to down the entire free, open-source U.S.  History book. Navigate to page 34 in the pdf to Section 2.2.

Next, have your students navigate to Activity 2 by clicking on this link.  Here, I strategically model how to create a Preview Concept Map.

When your student(s) finish Activity 2, you as instructor should lead the students to the Guided Practice.

Activity 3: Orchestrate a Guided Practice opportunity where the student applies what he/she learned in a less-than considerate expository text (includes some but not all of the 8 components, so students can adapt how they map).  Through this activity, students are able to practice what they have learned by applying this learning to a similar section of the chapter, and have you (and/or their peers through a group activity) available to provide support as they create their map.  Remember to make available just-in-time support to insure the responsibility for success is shared between instructor and the student (or perhaps even other students in a classroom setting).

Begin by asking the students to download the first section of the chapter for this Guided Practice by clicking on Activity 3:

If they need additional practice, have them nagivate to the third section of this chapter:

If you are teaching students individually, require the student to send you an e-mail of their Preview Concept Map for this first section of the chapter.  Also, make sure you are available through your e-mail for questions or feedback as they work through creating a new Preview Concept Map in this guided practice.

If you are requiring this activity in a class, provide a blog space in your Learning Management System for students to ask questions, share their evolving Preview Concept Map, and get guidance from you or their peers.

Have them submit their Preview Concept Maps for this section of the chapter also to you or to their peers for group comparison and evaluation.  Guided Practice can continue until the student feels competent with their ability to create a Preview Concept Map.



Once successful with the Guided practice, it is vital that the student(s) has (have) the opportunity to apply what they have learned about Previewing with Concept Mapping by transferring it (i.e., testing it out) on a chapter from another class in which you are enrolled which is not History.

This opportunity for transfer builds confidence in the student, and leads them to chapters that are not so considerate, where the strategies must be adapted.  Adapting to new learning situations is vital to succeed in college.

Here is an Activity 4 where they are guided to Independent Practice.

Activity 4 – Independence Practice: Orchestrate an independent practice opportunity where students apply what they have learned to another class on a chapter they have to read in an attempt to transfer what they have learned.

Feel free to e-mail me as to whether these additional 3 activities were useful for your students.



Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T., & Vickery, P. (2018a). 2.1 Portuguese exploration and Spanish conquest. U.S. History (pp. 33 – 42). Houston, TX: Rice University Openstax. Retrieved from

Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T., & Vickery, P. (2018b). 2.2 Religious upheavals in the developing Atlantic world. U.S. History (pp. 42-46). Houston, TX: Rice University Openstax. Retrieved from

Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T., & Vickery, P. (2018c). 2.3 Challanges to Spain’s supremacy. U.S. History (pp. 46-51). Houston, TX: Rice University Openstax. Retrieved from

Corbett, P. S., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T., & Vickery, P. (2018d). 2.4 New worlds in the Americas: Labor, commerce, and the Columbian exchange. U.S. History (pp. 52-58). Houston, TX: Rice University Openstax. Retrieved from

Fowler, S., Roush, R., & Wise, J. (2017). 1.2 The process of science. In Concepts of Biology(pp. 16-26). Houston, TX: Rice University Openstax. Retrieved from

Hambline, G. (2019, March 14). Intern’s Corner: Concept Mapping [web log comment]. Retrieved from

Khajavi, Y., & Abbasian, R. (2013). Improving EFL Students’ Self-regulation in Reading English Using a Cognitive Tool. Journal of Language & Linguistics Studies, 9(1), 206-222.

Paris, S. G., Lipson, M. Y., & Wixson, K. K. (1983). Becoming a strategic reader. Contemporary Education Psychology, 8(3), 293-316.

Pearson, P. D. (2011). Toward the next generation of comprehension instruction:  A coda. In H. Daniels (Ed.), Comprehension going forward (pp. 243-253). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Pearson, P. D., & Gallagher, M. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8, 317-344.

Previewing. (n.d.). Excelsior Online Reading Lab. [Online Multimedia] Retrieved from

Previewing: Activity. (n.d.). Excelsior Online Reading Lab. [Online Multimedia] Retrieved from

Schroeder, N. L., Nesbit, J. C., Anguiano, C. J., & Adesope, O. O. (2018). Studying and Constructing Concept Maps: a Meta-Analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 30(2), 431-455. doi: 10.1007/s10648-017-9403-9


David Caverly imageDr. David C. Caverly is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.  Retiring in Fall 2018 after 29 years at Texas State, he developed and then directed a developmental literacy program while also teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on reading and technology.  He had been involved in developmental education for 12 previous years at 6 other universities, 2 colleges, and 1 community college teaching reading and/or directing learning centers.  His scholarship includes 102 journal articles, 22 books, 19 invited chapters, 25 grants totaling almost $2.1 million, and over 390 conference presentations. Dr. Caverly is a member of the Excelsior OWL National Advisory Board.