Preview/Analyze/Connect (PAC)

Our first reading strategy is the Preview/Analyze/Connect (PAC) strategy described by Laura Robb (2003) in Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math (pp 105-110).

Description of Strategy

The Purpose of PAC
The main objectives of PAC are to foster interest from the students about what they are reading or are going to read, “to build background knowledge,” to analyze the text, and to connect the reading to students’ lives (Robb 2003, p. 106). Ideally, if the students are interested in the topic, they will learn the content better. One way students can become interested in their reading is by connecting the subject matter to their own lives. The PAC reading strategy consists of three steps:
  1. Previewing: students preview the chapter’s title and headings in order to have an idea of what the subject matter is. They also skim the section for vocabulary words to learn before reading.
  2. Analyzing: after previewing the chapter and finding vocabulary words, the students then learn the vocabulary words and try to predict what the text is about based on their preview.
  3. Connecting: finely the students discuss what they know about the subject and why they are interested in it. They can discuss this in small groups.
Analyzing and connecting may not be completely separate processes. Thus students may be analyzing and connecting at the same time in their discussions. By doing these activities the students are developing background knowledge about the text before they read it. According to Fielding and Pearson, “The more one already knows; the more one comprehends” (quoted in Robb 2003, p. 100). Thus developing prior knowledge about the text will help the students better understand the text.

Where PAC fits in Robb’s Three-Part Learning Framework
According to Robb (2003), this strategy is used before learning (p. 106-107). It allows students to expand and investigate their knowledge of the subject, learn vocabulary, and become interested in the content. These three aspects of the strategy are great to prepare for reading. However, the connecting and analyzing part of the strategy can be used throughout the reading. Students could connect more fully to the text as they understand it more. Thus, the strategy is primarily used before learning but can be useful during and after learning as well.

‍PAC Content Area
PAC can be used in science, math, social studies, and many language arts activities. When reading a novel or narrative in a language arts or social studies class, the strategy may need to be adjusted. Teachers could have class sessions devoted to learning about the time period or various concepts that are relevant to the novel. These class sessions could use the PAC strategy in order to learn about the topics better. However, novels and other narratives usually do not have many headings and bolded words to help the preview process. Furthermore, skimming through novels would spoil the suspense, prediction, and anticipation aspect of novels that are so integral to the process of storytelling. Thus, when reading narratives and novels the PAC strategy, as a whole, may not be the most useful strategy. However, connecting and analyzing would be great for students to identify with characters and situations that the characters are involved with. Other language arts activities, such as poetry, would require little to no adjustment of the PAC strategy. Furthermore, many standards in language arts, such as EL.9.2.3 2006, which emphasizes "Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Nonfiction and Informational Text," are not about understanding literature but how to read and understand the types of texts that are perfect for the PAC strategy.
Science and social studies textbooks and journal articles would benefit greatly from this strategy. It allows students to understand why the various topics are important to their own lives. Furthermore, if done correctly the connecting aspect of the strategy will make students want to learn about the subjects taught in the class. Because many science and social studies topics are very important to our everyday lives, connecting students’ lives to topics should be very powerful.

The PAC strategy can be very useful for certain types of math problems. When looking at data, graphs, money, geometry, and many other aspects of math, it is fairly simple to imagine how students can preview, analyze, and connect with various concepts. However, there are also a plethora of math areas where it may be difficult to use the PAC strategy. Sometimes the concepts are too abstract for students to easily connect their lives to. Yet, previewing and analyzing would mostly likely help students learn any math concept.

In science, the PAC strategy would be very useful. Like other content areas, it would help students understand new concepts that are introduced. For example,when a new chapter is introduced the students could be asked to preview the chapter. From this preview the students would have an idea of the topic. As they develop their vocabulary they would be reminded to make two lists. One would be words representing totally new concepts. The other would be words representing building block concepts. This second vocabulary list would be the prior knowledge that is essential to understanding the new ideas. This procedure would enable students to be prepared to tackle the new material with prior knowledge reviewed and new information previewed. They could be asked to do this work individually, with paper and pencil, or in groups. In the analysis stage the students could make a conceptual drawing of the new concepts. In the third phase of PAC the students could discuss with students or the teacher how their lives are impacted by the new scientific concepts. To help students make connections, they could be reminded that new scientific discoveries can seem disconnected from everyday life but, often, affect many aspects of our lives, directly or indirectly.

PAC in the Classroom
According to Robb (2003), PAC is predominantly a group activity (pp. 106-107). Small groups of 3-4 can discuss what they previewed and analyze the meaning and how the content connects to their lives. The students may feel more comfortable and speak more in small groups. However, PAC seems like it can easily be a whole class effort or even an individual effort. As long as the student is going through the processes and making connections to the content, it should be useful. Groups, through discussion, may spark thoughts that might not have occurred otherwise. Furthermore, discussion allows the teacher to listen in and gauge what and how well students know the content, if at all. Therefore, the teacher can modify the lesson and supplement the reading based on the reactions of the students.

PAC Tools and Handouts
The only tools that are necessary for the implementation of PAC are a textbook, article, or any section of text that will be learned. Writing utensils or highlighters may be helpful for the students to write down ideas or highlight vocabulary words. If students have already been introduced to paper aid forms, such as central idea sheets or vocabulary conceptual forms, they could be reminded of their use and aid in analyzing. However,while these paper and pencil aids would be helpful, introducing these aids along with introducing PAC would be distracting. Thus, the development of prior knowledge and connecting can occur through discussion and analysis alone. The most useful textbooks would have headings, bolded text, images, charts, and other visuals. These visuals allow the student to have an idea of what the text is about.

Implementation Plan

PAC Introduced and Modeled to Class
Because PAC is best used with certain types of text, it is important to choose a text that has visual cues, which help clue the students into what the content is. Therefore, the text should have images, charts, graphs, headings, bolded or italicized text, and etc. Furthermore, the text should not be a narrative or a novel. Shorter poems could also be used.

‍After selecting the appropriate text, the teacher should explain to the students that prior knowledge about a subject helps people learn the subject better‍. By explaining to students and training them to think about why they are reading, students may benefit from the strategy more. If students know that they are previewing the text in order to connect with it, they may preview more diligently and develop true interest in it, which is exactly what should be explained to them when setting up this strategy. Furthermore, explain that connecting the material to their lives will make them care about the subject more because it has a meaning in their lives and if they care about the subject they will learn about it easier.

‍The teacher should then go through the steps that will be used during the PAC strategy with a short text that is relevant to the larger topic to be learned about. Alternatively, the teacher can demonstrate the strategy on a small part of the beginning sections of a text. Therefore, the students actually learn how to do the strategy on the text they will be using. ‍The steps should be demonstrated on a board, projector, or on handouts. Thus the students can follow along with the teacher as ‍xhe ‍goes through the steps of the strategy. Part of the modeling could include discussion with the students to help the teacher make connections with the text.

First the teacher should preview the text by looking at headings and other visuals and “thinking out loud” about what the headings and visuals mean. Xhe should then have the students help with deciphering the headings and visuals. Thus, by the end of the preview process, the students are doing what is being modeled.

Second, the teacher should use a dictionary to help hir understand the meaning of vocabulary contained in bolded or italicized text. Then students should begin to use the dictionaries to help the teacher define the words and analyze what the text is about.

Third, the teacher should demonstrate connecting by providing examples of how the text is relevant to hir own life. Furthermore, the teacher should allow the students to participate in the connecting activity by relating it to their own lives.

Fourth, the teacher and students should read the short text and reflect, through discussion, on how the PAC strategy helped them understand the text better.

The teacher should scaffold the learning strategy by simultaneously providing more difficult texts and by decreasing hir direct involvement in the discussion. Thus, the first time the students use the strategy is in the teacher’s modeling, in which must of the work is done or guided by the teacher. The second time the students use the strategy, they will go through the processes in small groups or individually, but with much guidance from the teacher. The amount of guidance required should lessen as the students use the strategy more. Finally the students will be able to do the activity with little or no guidance by the teacher.

Supplemental Learning Settings, Such as Tutoring, or Independent and Individual Self Directed Learning
Tutors could possibly use this strategy for students who are frustrated with their subject in general. The tutor could suggest PAC as a strategy to help the student gain clarity and perspective. This would be a "step back" moment for the student. The "preview" would enable the student to gain some prior-knowledge of the subject. The preview could entail previous chapters, which may help the student understand the current chapter. The "analysis" would expand the student's knowledge of the subject through learning vocabulary and concepts that are not clearly understood by the student. The "connection" could motivate the student to take the necessary time and work because can help the student understand why the subject matters and how it affects hir personal life. Though discussions with groups members would be the most helpful when students are learning the strategy, after the student learns the technique, the "discussion" could be done with only the tutor, with written reflections, or with simply talking to hirself. The PAC strategy would give the student a systematic way to alleviate hir frustration with the subject and begin to truly learn the content.

Because of the vast amount of reading in most content areas. PAC can be useful to many. In language arts, one specific standard that aligns with this reading strategy is the Indiana state standard EL.6.2.3, which states, "Connect and clarify main ideas by identifying their relationship to multiple sources and related topics." The by connecting the content to their own lives through concepts and ideas that are introduced or explained by the teacher the students are developing prior knowledge of "related topics" and possibly other sources. The connections developed will help students understand the content better because of they are also developing prior knowledge.

Physics standards concentrate not only on the discipline but also upon historical perspectives that pertain to the discipline. The PAC strategy would be useful with many aspects of the content area. One specific standard that aligns well with the reading strategy is SC.P.2.1 2000, which states, "Explain that Isaac Newton created a unified view of force and motion in which motion everywhere in the universe can be explained by the same few rules." This standard is integral to understanding physics historically, because the idea of explaining a multitude of physical concepts by a few basic rules is integral to understanding physics. Therefore, many physics concepts need prior knowledge in order for students to truly grasp the concepts. By using PAC to preview a text that deals with Newton's views, students can make connections with prior knowledge and teachers can assess the extent of students' prior knowledge.

Assessing Learning with PAC
Though there is a certain amount of formative assessment that can be used by teachers with the PAC strategy, there is not much assessment integrated into the strategy itself. Teachers can gauge students’ prior knowledge by listening to discussions or reviewing the notes of students. However, this strategy is a prior to learning strategy. Therefore, the assessment would need to take place after the learning takes place, which is after the strategy is being learned. Therefore, assessment of the strategy would be indicated by improved comprehension of students during the assessment of the students after the reading.

Reflections, Adaptations, and Modifications
Group members one and two had fairly positive experiences implementing the reading strategy. They both selected middle school students to teach the strategy to.
Member 1's students were a fifth grade male and seventh grade female. Both students are highly capable students that are very good readers. However, the fifth grade student has trouble staying on task. Member 2’s students were two male eighth grade boys. One is an honor roll student and the other is a would be honor roll student except for his inconsistencies in class performance. Member 1 selected a piece from the Encyclopædia Britannica on the American Revolution, which is a summary of the main components of the American Revolution. It is a typical "textbook" type writing. Member 2 selected a chapter out of Danica McKellar’s Hot X: algebra exposed. The chapter selected was concerning strategies for solving for x. Member 2's students have been solving equations in school; so the subject of this lesson connected well with their ongoing school work. Member 2 discussed with the boys that the reading uses a more conversational language than other texts, which may make understanding algebra easier. Also, the language is couched in "girl talk." Member 2 pointed out to the students that reading this book would be a rare opportunity, saying to them: “It is not very often that boys can be as flies on the wall when girls talk straight girl talk. To gain the valuable insight in this book you will have to be comfortable translating and listening to your advantage the nuances of feminine gender language. Notice the picture of Danica McKellar on the dust cover of the book, looking exquisitely posed. Note the illustrations used in the chapter. They are using things that would appeal to girls. Now are you ready for a translation experience for your advantage?” They said, "Yeah, you betcha!." Member 1 had a short discussion prior to starting the strategy lesson. He explained that it is important to understand vocabulary in context and it is extremely important for the students to connect with the text because then they understand why it is important.

Both member 1 and 2 went through the first section of the respective texts to model how the procedure is done. Then, the students were asked to look through the next section by themselves for a few minutes and to note the vocabulary words and to talk among themselves about the meanings of the words. Member 1 then asked the students to think of ways that the text connects to their lives. He also asked what they know about the American Revolution and if they are familiar with the term "independence." He then asked if they ever felt the desire to be independent. After this question, the students started to make connections of their own and started talking about a video game and tv show that reminds them of the American Revolution. Then the students were asked if the reading strategy would help them with read "textbook" type writings in the future. Member 2 asked the the students if the exercise would help them understand algebra in the future. He then gave them a very brief vocabulary lesson on one concept that is used in the chapter, but was defined in a previous chapter. The students were directed to read the first half of the chapter.

What Worked/Did Not Work
For member 1, the strategy was successful in opening up discussion about the text. The fifth grader had difficulty focusing and claimed that he "will never care about the American Revolution" when member explained that connecting was partly supposed to develop a desire to learn about the topic. Thus, explaining why the students were being taught the strategy was not very successful with the fifth grader. Yet, the seventh grader was very open to the idea and loved the idea of connecting her own interests with learning. For member 2’s class, the strategy worked exceptionally well. PAC is intended to be a before learning strategy, but the analysis component can be used effectively in the reading or during learning section. Member 2’s experience is that the students became bogged down in the process of their reading (the during learning component). Their interest was clearly high. However, they needed much modeling and scaffolding to be able to gain more understanding of the subject. Member 2's students expressed interest in doing more work in the book or one that is similar, but uses "boy" or "man talk."

Modifications Made During Implementation
Member one did not make any significant modifications throughout the strategy lesson. He had to keep the fifth grader focused by gently prodding him to stay on task. The only modification that member 2 made was to teach a mini lesson of one vocabulary word. There was no adaptation for special needs except for an occasional comment to the child that has some ADHD tendencies. Those were only brief comments to keep the student focused.

Modifications For Future Implementations
Member 1 would use a text that is more interesting for younger students that are not interested in the topic. He would also provide dictionaries or the equivalent. During this lesson, he used a laptop and it was not efficient enough for both members and the teacher to use. The point of the PAC strategy is to get the students more engaged with the material. Unfortunately, the process of teaching the strategy seemed to not maintain their focus on the text. Therefore, member 1 might bring video clips or songs that pertain to the content. Then the teacher could start the connecting activity with something xhe knows the students are familiar with. Member 2 would be prepared with during reading (learning) strategies that would enable students to stay focused and to enable them to do the essential analysis necessary for them to grasp dense math or science concepts. In the during learning phase, it seems that PAC might work well for subjects that do not require the heavy analysis that is critical to math or science, especially with tightly written descriptions. This sort of reading needs something on the order of Cornell notes, where there is an assertive note taking along with an active questioning of the during reading section. Student 2 would be very comfortable using PAC for before learning and after learning, but would use another strategy for during learning.

Though both see the benefits using PAC, they also understand that it is designed to be a pre-learning strategy. Therefore, when actually working on the learning part of the lesson, it can be hard to decipher if the strategy was successful with making the students connect prior-knowledge to the content. However, when the discussion is engaging and fun, it seems to indicate that the connections are taking place. Therefore, funner texts, like Hot Algebra Exposed are much more appropriate than an Encyclopædia Britannica
article that is somewhat "dry" reading.

McKellar, Danica. (2010). Hot Algebra Exposed. New York: Hudson Street Press.
Robb, Laura. (2003). Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math: Practical Ways to Weave Comprehension
Strategies Into You Content Area Teaching. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
Wallace, Willard M. American Revolution. (2012). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from