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How to Make Predictions Based on Information from a Reading Selection

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  • 0:02 Importance of Predictions
  • 1:25 How To Model Predicting
  • 3:25 A Tool for Making Predictions
  • 5:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Making predictions when reading is an important reading comprehension strategy. In this lesson, we will discuss why it is important and how to model and practice it.

The Importance of Making Predictions

If you were to have your palm read, the lines on your palm would be examined to predict what will happen to you in the future. But when a reader makes predictions about a novel or textbook, specific details from the text are used. Predicting is a reading comprehension strategy that readers use to anticipate what comes next based on clues from the text and by using their prior knowledge.

From the second a reader sees the title of a text, looks at a picture on the cover, or reads the first line, prior knowledge from what they've learned and/or from life experiences is used to make predictions or educated guesses. Predicting is an ongoing process that keeps the reader engaged as he or she tries to figure out what is coming next by making new predictions. He or she is also revising old predictions as more information is gathered. From beginning readers to adults who've been reading the majority of their lives, predictions help keep readers focused and motivated, and it shows that they understand what they are reading.

More advanced readers make predictions very naturally before and during the reading process, much like when someone watches a movie and keeps interrupting it to say what they think will happen next. This may be annoying, but it shows that the person is demonstrating a higher level of thinking versus passively reading or watching and absorbing everything without questioning or thinking about it.

How to Model Predicting & Its Importance

With beginning readers, you should model predictions by thinking aloud. This is done when you read a text to the class and talk about your thought process in order to show students how to make predictions. For example, a student might think The Three Little Pigs is going to be about three pigs on a farm because of the title. There aren't any detailed clues as to its context. But you can guide the students to examine the picture on the cover, pointing out the angry wolf and saying, 'What can we predict about him?'

It's also important to model how to revise predictions while reading. During the story, you can pause at different points to ask questions like, 'What do you think will happen when the wolf tries to blow down the pig's house made of bricks?' A student might predict that the wolf will be able to blow the house down. But then you might ask, 'Well, what do we know about bricks? Are they heavier or lighter than straw or sticks?' After discussing how strong bricks are, that student would revise his prediction and say he thinks the house of bricks won't blow down. Pausing for discussion and predictions keeps readers engaged, gives them practice making educated guesses based on clues in the text and their own prior knowledge, and informs you as to whether or not the students are comprehending the text and if anything needs to be explained or reviewed.

After students have practiced this way of making predictions as a group, they can move on to making predictions on their own while you monitor their progress by having students share their predictions and the clues that point to those educated guesses. The goal is to get students to make predictions independently and naturally as they read.

Making predictions while reading informational texts is just as important as making predictions when reading novels because it shows that students:

  • Comprehend the material
  • Can predict what will come next
  • Understand the structure or layout, noting the importance of reading subtitles, headings, footnotes, and words in bold or italics

A Tool for Making Predictions

One way to provide guided practice for making predictions is to give them a three-column prediction list. It will look something like this:

Your Prediction? Clues Used? Changes to Prediction?

Students can use this to predict what characters will say and do, and what will happen to them. As you can see, there's a column to first write a prediction of what will happen next, then a column for clues (words or phrases from the text) that support that prediction, and lastly, a column for changes to predictions made based on new information read. You can stop readers at certain points to have students share their predictions, the clues from the text or from their prior knowledge that make them predict that, and how their predictions have changed once they've read more.

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