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DRA (Directed Reading Activity)


DRA (Betts, 1946) is a strategy that provides students with instructional support before, during, and after reading. The teacher takes an active role as he or she prepares students to read the text by preteaching important vocabulary, eliciting prior knowledge, teaching students how to use a specific reading skill, and providing a purpose for reading.

During reading, the teacher asks individual students questions about the text to monitor their comprehension. After reading, the teacher engages students in a discussion focusing on the purpose for reading, and follow-up activities that focus on the content of the text and the specific skill that students learned to use.


DRA serves several purposes:

  • Teaches word identification skills.
  • Elicits students' prior knowledge of the topic of the text.
  • Teaches specific reading skills.
  • Sets a purpose for reading.
  • Encourages students to monitor their comprehension while they are reading.

How to Use DRA

  1. Choose a text. This strategy is intended to be used with expository texts.
  2. Select vocabulary words from the text to be pretaught. The words you choose should be critical to comprehension of the passage and unfamiliar to most, if not all students. Vocabulary should be taught in context. Write the words on the board in sentences taken directly from the text. As a class, discuss what the words might mean based on the context, structure (e.g., prefixes, roots, or suffixes), and/or sound (i.e., deciding if the word sounds like another familiar word) of the word.
  3. Elicit prior knowledge on the topic of the text. Ask students, "What do you already know about _______?" or "What experiences do you have with ________?"
  4. Teach students a skill that will help them comprehend the text. The skill you choose will depend on the text. For example, if the text your students will be reading compares two different things, you might focus on the skill of compare/contrast. If the text is an editorial, you might talk about how to identify fact from the author's opinion.
  5. Give students a concrete purpose for reading. For example, "Read pages 283-287 to find out what a tide pool is."
  6. Have students read silently. Be available for questions as students read. Walk around the room asking individual students comprehension questions.
  7. After students have finished reading, ask the purpose-setting statement as a question. For example, ask, "What is a tide pool?" Encourage a discussion that grows from students' comments and questions.
  8. Engage students in follow-up activities. These activities should be designed to reinforce both the content of the text and the skill that students learned. Activities might include writing activities, further reading, art projects, group mapping activities, etc.

Betts, E. A. (1946). Foundations of reading instruction. New York: American Book Company.


Suppose students are reading a text that talks about the history of cars. 

Preteach vocabulary.

The teacher introduces the words "industry" and "economy" to students.

For each word, the teacher writes a sentence from the text that includes the word. The teacher includes enough surrounding sentences so that students have sufficient context to figure out what the word might mean.

"In 1893 the Duryea brothers made a car from a wagon and called it a Motor Wagon. Three years later, they made thirteen Motor Wagons. That was beginning of the car industry."

To help students define the word "industry," the teacher encourages students to come up with other words that would make sense in place of "industry" in the sentence above. Students might come up with "business" or "enterprise."

"Customers wanted cars that used less gas. Car designers came up with smaller cars. Autoworkers built economy cars such as the Ford Escort and the Chevy Vega."

To help students define the word "economy," the teacher encourages them to find clues in the surrounding sentences that give examples of what an "economy" car might be (i.e., a car that uses less gas and that it is smaller). Also, the teacher asks students what other words they know that sound like "economy." For example, students may have heard of the word "economic." The teacher encourages students to tell what they know about this word and what they associate it with (e.g., "money" or "finances").

Elicit prior knowledge.

The teacher asks:

  • "About how long ago was the first car made?"
  • "How do you think life changed when everyone owned a car?"
  • "What do you already know about major events in the history of cars?

Teach students a skill.

This text includes numerous headings that will help students make predictions about what they will be reading about in the sections following the headings. Therefore, the skill that the teacher focuses on is, "How to use headings to help you understand what you read."

  • The teacher explains that headings are included to help the reader recognize how the text is organized.
  • The teacher discusses with students how to recognize headings in a text (e.g., they are often in bold print and in a different font).
  • The teacher reads the first heading and asks students what they think that section will talk about based on the information in the heading. The same thing is done with several more headings.

Give students a purpose for reading.

The teacher says, "Read to find out in what ways the first cars were different from the cars we have now."

Have students read silently.

As students are reading, the teacher asks individual students comprehension questions. For example, the teacher asks one student, "What is one way in which the auto industry changed during World War II?"

  After students have finished reading, ask the purpose-setting statement as a question.

The teacher asks, "In what ways were the first cars different from the cars we have now?"

Engage students in follow-up activities.

One activity that the teacher has students do is the following:

Students create a time line of the events described in the text. They list the years on their time line that are presented in the text. Then, under the appropriate years on their time line, they briefly write down why that year is important in the history of cars.