The following is one of fifty engagement tasks in Aaron's newest book Worksheets Don't Work. Each image is hyperlinked to a Google Slide that can be copied and edited as needed. The last section has been added to modify this task for virtual learning. To have upcoming blog posts in this series sent directly to your inbox, add your email address here.
Too often students have new content thrust upon them without warning. Told without preamble to open their books to Chapter 7 or to page 288, reading is an activity that can sometimes be extremely tedious for students. While the instructor has a firm grasp on the importance of the reading passage and how it pertains to the subject overall, students missing this insight lack stamina for sustained reading or the ability to distinguish between nuances in the language. Why not provide them with a reason for reading and a context to better understand the purpose of the passage?
When students make a prediction guide, they take the little information they know of a topic and use it to predict several things about what they are going to read. If the topic is completely new to the students, the teacher can provide a short oral summary of the content to provide some background. Writing their predictions out, the students use their guides as focal points for their reading. As they move through the passage, they either confirm or correct their predictions. By the end of the exercise, students can either summarize their learning or briefly discuss how their predictions were accurate, inaccurate, or both.
Why It Works
Making predictions is a commonly used reading tactic in classrooms across the country. What the prediction guide strategy does is takes this implicit skill and makes it visible. Before reading begins, students should first connect the context of what they will be reading about with their own prior knowledge. This prepares them for reading productively by painting a background picture for them and sets the stage for comprehension. One method of accessing these connections is to make predictions.
Additionally, predictions also continuously teach students about the structure of the text. If reading and predicting with narrative text, students are not only keeping the content in mind, they are also navigating through various components of stories. If they predicted that the hero would defeat the evil villain, they subconsciously wait for the fulfillment of that prediction until the climax of the story. Students using predictions with informational text also monitor the structure of the passage. Whether the author chooses to write sequentially, with cause and effect, or by providing evidence to support an argument, predictions require that students pay attention to learn whether or not their projections were accurate.
Finally, predictions are powerful because they promote close reading of the text. When students are given the chance to write down what they think will happen, their attention to what they are reading heightens. Not only are they waiting to see whether or not they are accurate, they are evaluating their predictions all along the way. As they read, they marshal evidence for their forecast, trying to gauge the validity of their guesses. Even if they are proven wrong, the adjustments they make while reading give students all the fuel they need for continued attention to the text.
Students and teachers can quickly master prediction guides by looking at some of the tips listed below.
1. Examine the genre of the text that students will use. If narrative, student predictions will be centered around plot events, character motivations and changes, and will most likely involve the climax and resolution. If informational, students will instead spend more time predicting what type of information they will learn, how it confirms or changes their prior knowledge, and/or the causes or effects of known events.
2. In addition to considering text genre, also think about the students’ familiarity with the subject. If it’s a topic they haven’t been exposed to, the predictions will be broader and more general. If the students have read something similar before, their predictions should be more specific and exact.
3. Determine how the predictions will be created. If the teacher has something specific she’d like the students to think about, she can write her own statements for the students to evaluate. This would serve to focus the students’ attention to certain topics or ideas within the text. Another option would be to open it up to students, asking them to create their own predictions based on prior knowledge. If neither extreme seems palatable, teachers can choose the middle route. They can provide a few predictive statements for students and also ask the students to write some.
4. Teachers must also consider whether or not to provide guidance within the prediction guide. For larger passages or unfamiliar topics, students might benefit from having a page number provided for students to verify their predictions. While this will not affect the predictions students make, it will provide assistance when students are trying to verify them.
5. One of the most powerful components of this strategy is conducted during and after reading. Students, in addition to making predictions, should know what is expected of them during the review phase. They should spend a significant amount of time explaining not only whether or not their predictions were true, but if wrong, what the truth actually is. If this step is minimized, students might better recollect their predictions than what was learned from the text.
Mr. Stark’s history students were about to spend some time looking at primary sources in their groups. For many of them, this would be the first time they had grappled with original text written in an antiquated form of English. He knew that unless he prepared them, some of his students would struggle to find relevance in the task and make meaning. To battle this, he prepared a prediction guide for his students to use. His hope was that by activating their prior knowledge and giving them a purpose for reading, they would push through any difficulties with the language and show increased perseverance and resilience.
“Good morning, class. Today is the day I’ve been talking about all week. We’ve finally come to the part in our study of the American Revolution where we are going to spend some time with the text of the Declaration of Independence. As we’ve already learned, the text was written by Thomas Jefferson, who played not only an integral part in the revolution but also went on to do many things for America, including serving as our third president and founding the University of Virginia. While president of the United States, he facilitated the Louisiana Purchase from France, nearly doubling the size of the country.
“It’s the Declaration of Independence, however, that first gained him notoriety on the national stage. Parts of its text are quoted often every day, and its principles still serve as the foundation of our nation’s freedom. Your task today is to work with your group to tackle this document, combining all of your skills and determination to see if you can break the code of an 18th century form of the English language.
“To get you in the right frame of mind,” Mr. Stark continued, “I created a short prediction guide for you to look at with your group. Without using your textbook or your phones, I’d like you to work together to answer the four questions on the prediction guide. You don’t have to get them correct because you’re predicting what you know before you even read the document. Instead, I’d like you to use what you can remember from our lessons this week. Combine that with what you already know about our government and history to make your best guesses.
“After you finish reading the Declaration of Independence, look back at your prediction guide. Decide whether your predictions were completely correct, only partially correct, or completely wrong. After you circle the correct letter or letters in the third column, explain why you chose what you did. Use quotations from the text to justify your answers. I’m much more concerned with the text evidence you give than whether or not you were initially correct. If I had to choose, I’d rather you be completely wrong and able to explain why with textual evidence than be completely correct in your predictions but not know why.
“Are you ready to begin?” he asked hopefully. Mr. Stark saw that his students were eager to get the prediction guides. Instead of dreading a boring reading task, they relished the challenge and couldn’t wait to work with their groups.
For teachers that want to extend the exercise, students could participate in a two-step prediction guide. The first part would look like a traditional student-made prediction guide. The teacher might ask some questions for students to answer or students might simply generate some predictions on their own. Before reading, however, students could exchange their predictions with a partner. The students could decide whether their partner’s predictions will be true or not. Then, when they read the passage, they will look to confirm both their own and their partner’s predictions.
While predicting what happens before reading does help set a purpose for reading, there is more that can be done after reading as well. When students look back at their prediction guide, they can choose one of their predictions to expand upon. Examining their reasoning, they can write a short statement explaining why they predicted what they did. This would give them much needed practice at reflecting on their thinking, examining what prior knowledge they used to make the decision they did. Any time that students can think metacognitively, it helps them make better decisions in the future.
As an anticipatory set, the predictions that teachers create can also be examined as an entire class. For example, the teacher can type out each prediction on a separate sheet of paper. The papers can be posted around the room along with a class roster. Students can move around the room, reading each statement and then circling either True or False next to their name to signify their prediction. This not only gets the students up and moving around, it also generates anticipation across the entire class. For those students highly motivated by competition, they will eagerly read the passage just to prove to their friends that they were right.
As mentioned in the implementation stage, one of the largest differences in rolling out a prediction guide is how the teacher facilitates the predictions. If so desired, the teacher can write out a series of statements for the students to agree or disagree with. By asking students to predict whether a statement is true or false, it restricts the answers to only one of two options. This would be preferable when there is not a lot of class time available for students to develop their own prediction statements.
Modifying This For Virtual Learning
While the traditional version of this alternative is primarily paper and pencil, virtual learning opens up a whole new realm for predictions. Instead of merely reading the predictions, students can listen to an audio recording of you giving the predictions or even watch a video that you recorded on your phone or laptop and shared with them. You can even get creative and dress up as a specific character and talk in first person, as if the predictions were about you. Feel free to add spooky or silly sound effects to heighten the mood.
Similarly, virtual learning opens up a new avenue for how students respond to the prediction guide. If you have a licensed Zoom account, you can create a poll to share with students. This allows them to vote on the spot and see the aggregated results of their classmates. If not, you can create a Google Form for free and send it to students. When viewing the results, it automatically creates a simple pie chart showing the results for easy observation and discussion.