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Prediction is fundamental to comprehension. According to Duffy, predicting is the strategy most relied upon as we begin reading. Good readers anticipate meaning. They do this by predicting what they think is going to happen in the selection and by revising their predictions as they read. As soon as a reader sees the title, looks at a picture on the cover, or even reads the first line, prior knowledge is sparked, and on the basis of that prior knowledge, predictions or hypotheses take flight. Predictions can be based on three kinds of prior knowledge: prior knowledge about a topic, prior knowledge about a type of text, or prior experience with a particular purpose for reading.

Students rely on previous study and experiences to make educated guesses about material to be read. As noted inUnderstanding Reading, (1988) Smith defined predicting as the prior elimination of unlikely alternatives. He further suggests, “Readers do not normally attend to print with their minds blank, with no prior purpose and with no expectation of what they might find in the text. The way readers look for meaning is not to consider all possibilities, nor to make reckless guesses about just one, but rather to predict within the most likely range of alternatives. Readers can derive meaning from text because they bring expectations about meaning to text.”

Duffy contends that the secret to making sound predictions as one begins to read is to combine the clues the author provides with previous experiences to make valid guesses about what will occur. Furthermore, Allen explains that making predictions or guesses helps readers focus their reading both before and during reading. She encourages young readers to generate a list of possibilities that eventually lead to educated guesses. When completed, students have two items on their lists: [1] what the book says and [2] things they know. Students share their initial predictions in class discussion, and then they are encouraged to keep the generated list of predictions in front of them in order to revise as new information is gleaned from  reading.

Predicting is universal in that emergent readers of all ages make predictions as they listen to stories or read on their own. More proficient readers make predictions when reading expository text. Consequently, predicting can be taught to students of all ages and is appropriate for multiple levels of both narrative and expository text.

Allen notes that visualizing strengthens prediction and should therefore be encouraged by all readers. When readers visualize, they are in fact making predictions. Furthermore,visualizing and predicting work in tandem. Predicting and inferring involves merging background knowledge with textual clues to craft ideas not explicitly stated in the text. Successful readers predict, visualize and infer to make sense of text.

Successful readers pay attention to what is happening and anticipate that there might be a need to change a prediction. Frequent monitoring and re-predicting is repeated as readers proceed through text. The “predict ~ monitor ~ re-predict” process is not accomplished in one pass, but is rather a cyclical process that occurs continuously as readers maneuver through text.

See how it works

Reading is not a random process, but it is rather a system of conventions used to interpret and make sense of text. In cases where students need explicit instruction about making predictions, teachers may insert explanations into other activities. For example, when reading aloud instructors may:

  • talk about predicting based on what they know about the topic as a natural part of the reading process.
  • pause periodically while reading to explain their thinking about how they are confirming or adjusting predictions.
  • interview students about what they are thinking as they read or probe to determine whether they make sound predictions about what will happen next.
  • ask students to describe what they were saying to themselves as they read.

Word Scramble Prediction

To build enthusiasm, encourage sound prediction-making, and pique students curiosity about reading, the following strategy can be utilized in all classrooms. At key points in a text, furnish a list of words students will find in an upcoming passage and ask them to make thoughtfully sound predictions about what may happen in the reading. For example, prior to reading the first chapter from Tim O’Brien’s, The Things They Carriedthe following list of words could be provided to the students:

  • rucksack
  • foxhole
  • canteen
  • pretending
  • elusive
  • perimeter
  • distracted
  • letters
  • imagine
  • poetry
  • dog tags

Students read the word scramble and are given a few minutes to write a prediction of what they believe will happen in the chapter, based on the words provided and any prior knowledge leading up to this point. Students then volunteer to read their predictions aloud. After a number have been heard, the teacher might state, “Let’s see whose prediction is closest. Let’s begin this book with the first chapter, “The Things They Carried,” and get to know a bit about soldiers from Vietnam. This activity greatly encourages students to focus intensely as they read.

Anticipation Guides

An anticipation guide is a series of statements students respond to independently before reading specific text. The discussion which follows is where the real value lies for both teachers and students. The teacher’s role during discussion is to stimulate and kindle notions as students make connections between their knowledge of the world and the predictions they create. Teachers must remain open to a wide range of responses, while carefully expanding ideas and concepts students bring to the conversation in order to keep the discussion moving.

Anticipation Guides may vary in format, but not in purpose. In each case, the readers’ expectations about meaning are raised before they read the text. As recommended in Vacca and Vacca, (p. 198), keep these guidelines in mind while creating, constructing, and implementing anticipation guides:

  1. Analyze the material to be read. Determine the major ideas – implicit and explicit – with which students will interact.
  2. Write those ideas in short, clear, declarative statements. These statements should in some way reflect the world in which the students live or about which they know. Therefore, avoid abstractions whenever possible.
  3. Put these statements in a format that will elicit anticipation and prediction.
  4. Discuss the students’ predictions and anticipations before they read the text selection.
  5. Assign the text selection. Have the students evaluate the statements in light of the author’s intent and purpose.
  6. Contrast the readers’ predictions with the author’s intended meaning

Do what works

Word Scramble Prediction Template
Anticipation Guide Template
Extended Anticipation Guide Template
IEPC Template

As noted in Adolescent Literacy Research and Practice, and according to Graves & Graves, Slater & Horstman, “predicting requires students to rehearse what they have learned thus far in their reading and begin the next section of the text with some expectation of what is to come.”


  • Allen, J. (2000). Yellow brick roads: Shared and guided paths to independent reading 4-12. Portland: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Dole (Eds.), Adolescent literacy research and practice (pp. 40-58). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  • Duffy, G. (2003). Explaining reading: A resource for teaching concepts, skills, and strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Gallagher, K. (2004). Deeper reading: Comprehending challenging texts, 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Harvey, S. and Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement. Portland: Stenhouse Publishers.
  • Slater, W.H. (2004). Teaching English from a literacy perspective: The goal of high literacy for all students. In T.L. Jetton  & J. A.
  • Smith, F. (1988). Understanding reading (4th ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Vacca, R.T. & Vacca J.L. (2008).  Content area reading: Literacy and learning across the curriculum. (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.