4 Simple Ways to Teach Students to Make Meaningful Predictions

free making predictions activities

Making meaningful predictions is an important reading strategy that students must master as they begin to read more complex texts in the upper elementary classroom. Predicting requires students to collect information from the book that they are reading and think ahead to make an educated guess about what will happen next. Making predictions helps students:

  • Be an active and alert reader.
  • Anticipate the next event and ending of the book.
  • Think about how a character may react or solve a problem.
  • Get into the world of the book.

As we teach students to make predictions, we must be sure that students are making valid and reasonable predictions that are not just based on what is happening in the book that they are reading, but also supported by their own personal experiences. This is no easy task! So how can we get students to make meaningful predictions as they read to help them be active readers and better understand the books that they are reading? Here are four simple ways to help your students make meaningful predictions and grow as readers, even as the books that they are reading increase in complexity.

Explicit Instruction 

4 Simple Ways to Teach Students to Make Meaningful PredictionsAs students get older and read more complex books, they should still be making and discussing predictions. While in the younger grades, students primarily made predictions based on the cover of the book. As the books they are reading increase in difficulty and length, students have to be able to hold on to information as they read for longer periods of time to be able to make predictions through the end of the book. Since students use a combination of text clues and personal experience to predict what will happen as they read, students can sometimes confuse making predictions with making inferences. The main difference between predicting and inferring is that by the end of the student's reading, the predictions that they have made can be confirmed to be correct or not, while the inferences that they make cannot. This is primarily because the inferring that they do as they read is based on implied or indirect information that they gather through the questions that they ask as they read. Since students at this age are learning to balance multiple reading strategies as they read, they still need explicit instruction on how to use different reading strategies like making predictions, both in isolation and simultaneously with other strategies.

Initial explicit prediction instruction should include lessons focused on:

  • What a Prediction Is
  • How to Make a Prediction
  • How Predictions Help Readers Grow
  • When to Make Predictions
  • The Difference Between a Prediction and Inference

These lessons are perfect to teach using picture books to model how to make predictions. There are so many great books to use help students master making predictions. The key to picking a book to use for prediction lessons is to make sure that students have not heard the story! Sounds simple, but often times as teachers we pick our favorite books to share with students. This increases the chances of the students having heard the book before. One way to check to see if students have heard a story before you read it is to leave the book out in a spot where students can see the book, but not take it to read. Students will quickly tell you that they have heard that book before! My favorite books to use for prediction lessons are Enemy Pie* and Too Many Pumpkins*. These books have story lines that offer many story clues to collect and relatable story lines that will help students make valid predictions. (Grab free prediction teaching points to guide your lessons below.)

Use a T-Chart Organizer

making valid predictions in upper elementary classroom
An important step in teaching students to make predictions is to show them the connection between  collecting and recording story clues and their own experiences with making valid predictions. As you read aloud with students to practice, simply chart story clues on chart paper, have students share their experiences and record them. Then pause to allow students time to make predictions based on both pieces of information that you have written down. This is critical so that students see the point in taking notes to collect story evidence! A simple graphic organizer like a T-chart, is a great way for students to visually see how the story clues that they are reading are driving their recollection of past experiences and the predictions that they make. Once you have practiced this together, students can work independently collecting information to help them make predictions using a range of graphic organizers from a simple bullet list to more complex graphic organizers. I have found that students love the simplicity of the T-chart like the one pictured above. Since it is easy to make, students can use plain paper or notebook paper to keep track of the story clues, their experiences, and the predictions that they make. Having any organizer makes it easier for students to turn their prediction ideas into written reflections about books. (Grab free prediction teaching points to guide your lessons below.)

Before, During, and After Reading Tasks

making predictions free activityMaking predictions is a strategy that students use throughout reading an entire book. Do not let students falsely think that predictions are made only at the beginning of a new book or new chapter. While it is important to predict at these times, good readers make predictions throughout the whole book, on each and every page. While focusing on making predictions, try using "before, during, and after reading tasks" to reinforce prediction making throughout the text. I love using using these types of tasks because it allows readers to complete a task based on the lesson of the day, no matter where they are in the book that they are reading. To make these, I simply decide on a prediction task that students can complete whether they are just beginning a book, knee deep in a book, or just wrapped up a book. You can assign students a before, during, and after task, allow them to select one, or simply write a prediction task on chart paper and have every student respond to it on a sticky note by the end of reading. (Grab these before, during and after tasks activities for free below.)

Illustrate the Ending

My students love any and all activities that allows them to be creative! Tying art and reading together always means instant engagement in my classroom!  Have students who are almost finished with a chapter book illustrate the ending by rereading the predictions that they made during the book. Their illustration should represent what would be on the last page of the book. This activity makes a great visual reminder that the predictions they make are based on text evidence, clues, and their own experiences that they have carried throughout the whole book.

Making predictions is a reading strategy that truly engages the reader. When students make predictions as they read they become excited to forge ahead to see what happens next. After students practice how to make predictions explicitly, it becomes second nature. Making predictions is a must teach reading strategy as it lays the ground work for more complex reading strategies like inferring and making connections. What is your favorite making predictions activity?

Related Articles: Visualizing Activities to Keep Students Actively Reading

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*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)



What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?

Reading strategies and reading units are quite different. 

Often times the teaching of reading strategies gets lost in the mix of teaching reading units. While teaching reading units such as themes in literature and understanding character development are important, I have found that teaching students how to apply reading comprehension strategies is critical in helping them grow as independent and self-monitoring readers.

While reading strategy instruction can be overwhelming at first to plan and implement, it is important to teach reading strategies explicitly. This allows students to be exposed to multiple techniques to help themselves as readers and truly comprehend the text at hand. When students apply a variety of reading strategies as they read, it helps them become active readers. This is important because active reading keeps students be alert as they read. When students are active readers, alert, and applying multiple strategies as they read they are able to understand the text at a deeper level. By teaching reading strategies with explicit instruction, students are able to:

  • see a given reading strategy in action multiple times
  • learn how to apply it to their own independent reading
  • have the opportunity to practice the strategy in isolation
  • build their reading strategy repertoire 
  • learn how to apply more than one reading strategy when reading complex texts

I truly believe in the power of teaching reading strategies explicitly and am often asked many questions about reading comprehension strategies instruction in my classroom. I have compiled the questions I am most frequently asked to help you make decisions about how you want to approach the teaching of reading strategies in your upper elementary classroom.

how to teach Reading Comprehension Strategies

What are effective reading comprehension strategies?

Reading comprehension strategies help readers make sense of the material that they are reading. Proficient readers use multiple strategies as they read to make the most of the text. The most frequently used reading strategies upper elementary students utilize as they read are:

  1. Activate Background Knowledge
  2. Predict
  3. Visualize
  4. Monitor and Clarify {including use of context clues}
  5. Question
  6. Infer
  7. Summarize

What is the difference between reading strategies and reading units?

There is a big difference between reading strategies and reading units, both are important in the upper elementary reading classroom. Reading strategies are the techniques that readers use to understand the books that they are reading within different reading units. Reading units are focused units of study around a given reading topic or genre such as character understanding or learning about mysteries. To understand how reading strategies and reading units are connected, let's use a unit on character understanding. Within the reading unit of character understanding, readers will use all of the reading strategies previously taught to help them better understand the characters they meet. For example, they will predict what the character will do, visualize a character in action, infer how a character might be feeling, and question why a character did something. Without explicit instruction on how to use each of these reading strategies, students will not be able to dive deep in character understanding. We can NOT expect that students understand what it means to predict or infer, it must be modeled and taught.

Is there a specific order that you teach reading strategies?

upper elementary reading strategies lessonsYes!! Since reading strategies build upon each other, it makes sense to teach reading strategies in the order that allows students to build upon each other and begin to practice using multiple reading strategies at once. Here is the order that I teach reading strategies: activate prior knowledge, predict, visualize, question, summarizeinfer, and monitor and clarify. When I teach a new reading strategy I always use previously read books. This is a must in my classroom! By using books that students have already heard before, they can focus on applying the newly learned strategy instead of focusing on comprehending the book. The exception to this is when teaching predicting.  Students should practice making predictions with newly read material.

How do you come up with reading strategy mini lesson ideas?

The focus is always on how good readers use the reading strategies above as they read independently. The reading strategy mini lesson objectives that I use always begin with an introduction of each strategy where modeling takes place to allow students to see that reading strategy in action. Students describe what I am doing as a reader, and then we discuss what the strategy is, how it helps students as readers, and how they can put it into action independently. (Grab free strategy mini lesson ideas at the bottom of this post.) Once you introduce each reading strategy allow students time to try them out. Observe and confer with students so that you can teach any additional mini-lessons based on the needs of your students. Do not spend more than a few days teaching each reading strategy. Students will be able to have additional practice trying out each of the reading strategies as they learn new strategies and while you are knee deep in teaching reading units. (Grab free strategy mini lesson ideas at the bottom of this post.)

How do you differentiate reading strategy instruction?

What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?
There are many ways to differentiate reading strategy instruction, the most effective is to make sure that students are reading books that are just right for them! This will ensure that students are able to practice the reading strategies appropriately instead of being hung up on comprehending a book too difficult or not being able to apply higher level comprehension strategies to a book that is too easy. Although I strive to have students practice reading strategy work in their own independent reading, sometimes it is necessary to provide students with a short text to practice the strategy. This is when I use task cards. It allows me to differentiate and work with each student individually, practice the strategy a few times, and then send them off to their independent reading book. I also differentiate reading strategy instruction by using a variety of graphic organizers that allow me to scaffold as needed to support students. Some students may be ready for open ended organizers right after instruction while some would benefit from a structured frame to help them organize their thoughts. By constantly assessing students, both formally and informally, I am able to differentiate reading strategy instruction for each student.

What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?

Reading strategy instruction is a must for every upper elementary reading classroom. It builds student independence, encourages self monitoring while reading, and promotes critical thinking of the texts students are reading. The work that you do teaching students how to apply reading strategies will help students grow as readers as they dive deep into the reading units that you are going to teach later on in the year. Lay the groundwork now and watch them succeed all year long!

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