Ohio Resource Center
Strategies:  Browse Reading Strategies


by Jackie Wissman

What is predicting?

In Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency: Thinking, Talking and Writing about Reading, K–8, Pinnell and Fountas (2006) define prediction as a strategy in which readers use what they already know to anticipate and prepare for what is coming next.

Pinnell and Fountas (2006) explain that effective readers make predictions before, during, and after reading. Before reading, they make predictions and set expectations based on the genre, author, topic, and organization of the text. During reading, effective readers use background knowledge, as well as what they have learned about the characters, setting, plot, and theme, to predict what might happen next and expand meaning. After reading, they reflect on content and may make predictions beyond the story.

Where is predicting discussed in the Ohio Academic Content Standards?

Predicting is implied throughout the standards and is a prerequisite skill to meeting the intended learning expectations of the following standards:


  1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  1. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
  2. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  1. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  1. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

How can predicting be taught so that it supports reading comprehension?

Good readers anticipate words, phrases, and sentences and use their knowledge about how language works to narrow possibilities when solving words. This anticipation both propels reading forward and makes decoding more efficient. As a result, readers are able to focus more attention on meaning (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006).

Fountas and Pinnell (2006) differentiate between predicting in fiction and nonfiction. Predicting in fiction involves using background knowledge in combination with what is known about the characters, setting, and plot progression to anticipate what is yet to come. For example, when reading Charlotte's Web, it is easy to predict that Charlotte will decide to go to the fair with Wilbur even though she is not feeling well. We can predict this because, up to this point in the story, Charlotte has been very loyal to Wilbur and is invested in his future. It would be out of character for her to send him off on such a scary journey on his own.

Predicting in nonfiction involves anticipating content and combining what is already known with new ideas and information (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006). For example, when I was previewing an article about dinosaurs, the last section titled "What happened to the Dinosaurs?" prompted me to predict that theories explaining extinction would be explored. During and after reading, new ideas were combined with existing knowledge, allowing me to draw my own conclusions and make my own predictions.

Mini-Lesson for Introducing and Modeling Predicting
Present a whole-group mini-lesson that defines and models predicting for students. According to Gay Su Pinnell and Patricia L. Scharer (2003), a mini-lesson has four components: introducing the strategy, explaining why the strategy is important to readers, demonstrating the strategy, and clearly stating what readers should do. The mini-lesson should be interactive and invite student engagement.

Introducing the strategy
  • Ask students to share where they have heard the word predict before.

  • Share a simple definition of predicting, such as "Predicting is a strategy in which you use what you already know to think about and prepare for what is coming next."

  • Discuss that good readers make predictions before, during, and after reading but that today you are focusing on before reading.

  • Explain that good readers don't just pick up a new book and start reading; they take a few minutes to preview the text so that they have some idea of what to expect during reading. One of the things good readers do when they preview a book is make predictions about what they will be reading. Good readers use information in the pictures and other text features to make predictions.
Explaining why the strategy is important to readers
Explain that it is important to make predictions before reading because it helps to get the students thinking about what they already know (activate background knowledge) and it also helps them form ideas about the book (set expectations) that will make it easier to make meaning.

Demonstrating the strategy
Share a specific example of using the strategy.

Before I started reading the Rookie Read-About Science book Mammals of Long Ago by Allen Fowler, I previewed it by looking at the pictures and noticing bold words or captions to help me make predictions. When I opened to page 4 and saw dinosaurs, I was surprised because dinosaurs are not mammals. This made me think that maybe the author would compare dinosaurs with mammals. When I got to page 9 and read the caption, "Dogs drink mother's milk," I predicted that the book would explain the characteristics of mammals. As I continued previewing and saw all the pictures of prehistoric mammals beside similar modern-day mammals, I predicted the author would compare and contrast the animals on each of these pages. I predicted I'd be reading about how modern-day animals are alike and different from their prehistoric ancestors.

Clearly stating what good readers should do
Remind students that good readers preview a book before reading and that one of the things they do when previewing is make predictions—this will help them set expectations about what they will be reading. Ask students to brainstorm features in the text that might help a reader make predictions before reading. Chart their responses.

Guided Practice
Immediately following a mini-lesson or think-aloud, provide guided practice in which students have an opportunity to practice predicting with the support of the teacher and peers. For example, after the above mini-lesson using the Rookie Read-About Science book Mammals of Long Ago, give pairs a different Rookie Read-About Science book, and ask them to preview with their partner and be prepared to share some predictions they are able to make.

Questions Game

Using the interactive online game, "What's in the Bag?" young children develop speaking and listening skills as a part of language development. Students also connect visual text with the printed words. This game helps students to develop reasoning and inferential thinking.

Students play the game by using clues to predict what is in the bag, and so it's a perfect activity for honing prediction skills. Have students play the game online, or create your own "twenty questions" game for the class based on the online game. After students play the game several times, explain to them that they were making predictions based on information given. Point out that they would not predict a rock was in the bag if they had been given clues that the item was warm and soft. Help students see that in the same way they use clues in the game, they should use information from the text and pictures to make logical predictions while reading; emphasize the idea that logical predictions are not wild guesses because they can be supported with evidence.

Additional Mini-Lesson Topics Related to Predicting
You can take any of these ideas and build a lesson around them.
  • Knowing characteristics of the genre you are reading can help you make predictions.

  • Chapter titles can help you make predictions.

  • Good readers use clues from the author and illustrations to make predictions about what might happen next.

  • Thinking about what might happen next can help you figure out tricky words.

  • Many authors use repetitive phrases and patterns. Good readers notice these and use them to help them make predictions about what is coming next.

  • Good readers often make predictions about what might happen to characters even after the story is over.

The think-aloud allows students to hear the kind of self-talk, problem solving, and thinking that effective readers use when predicting. During a think-aloud targeted to prediction, the teacher allows the students to hear what he or she is thinking while using prediction strategies.

While reading aloud the short book Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, stop in a few places to allow students to hear your thinking as you make predictions.

I'm going to stop here (text reads "George went: 'Moo'") and think about what might happen next. I can tell by the mother's face that she is getting more and more worried about George. Just look at her face! I think she is going to try to solve this problem. If I were worried about my son, I would take him to the doctor. I think that she is so worried that she might take George to the vet or maybe some kind of obedience school. I used my own experiences as a mother and the illustrations to help me make this prediction. Let's see what happens.

Continue reading the book aloud.

I'm going to stop again and make another prediction (text reads "And pulled out a duck"). So far the vet has pulled a cat and a duck out of George. This seems to be a pattern. I think the vet is going to keep pulling animals from George until he gets to the cow. I can use what is happening in the story to make predictions about what might happen next.

Independent Practice—Marking Predictions in Independent Reading
Remind students that good readers are always predicting. Give them each two Post-it notes, and ask them to keep these with them during independent reading, buddy reading, and managed independent learning (center time). If they make a prediction, they should mark the page in the book. Allow time for sharing daily as students practice predicting at the independent level.

Double-Sided Journal/Prediction Chart
Students can use the Record Your Prediction chart (see below), adapted from a prediction-response organizer included in Debbie Miller's (2002) Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades, to quickly record predictions made while reading. They can add page numbers next to their predictions and go back and fill in their thinking later, or they can jot down their thinking at the same time they record their predictions.

Record Your Prediction
Prediction Thinking Behind Your Prediction

Students can also use a prediction-recording sheet after reading to make predictions beyond the text.

Create a Reminder Bookmark
Review with students what it means to make predictions, and remind them that good readers make predictions before, during, and after reading. During the discussion, direct the students back to any definitions or charts you have constructed together. On a sturdy book mark or page in their reading journal, ask them to make a quick sketch or write a few words or ideas that will help them remember the strategy of predicting.

Sharing Predictions
During whole-group sharing, allow individuals to share the predictions they made while reading independently or reading with buddies. Ask them not only to share their prediction but to support their thinking with illustrations or text.

Prediction Drawing
Ask students to draw a picture that demonstrates what might happen to the main character after the story is over. On the back of the picture, they should write an explanation of why they think this will happen (evidence from text or prior knowledge).

How can predicting be used to teach vocabulary?

This activity revolves around a read-aloud and consists of before, during, and after reading components. During the activity, you will also be introducing and modeling a vocabulary prediction chart that the students can use later.

Before reading: Explain that good readers think about what they already know about a topic before reading an unfamiliar nonfiction text. One way to tap into background knowledge is to think about the important vocabulary that might be encountered. Before reading a nonfiction selection aloud, ask students to talk to a partner about what they already know about the topic. After this pair-share, chart important vocabulary words that students predict will be in the text. As students share and discuss vocabulary, they build background knowledge and begin constructing definitions prior to reading. Chart student words quickly.

Vocabulary Prediction

Before Reading
Words we predict we will see when we read:

  ___________________________     __________________________

  ___________________________     __________________________

During reading: Ask students to pay close attention to see if any of their words come up in the read-aloud. If so, put an asterisk by those words in the chart.

After reading: Discuss what predicted words were in the text and what words were not included and why this might be. Any important vocabulary from the text can be added to the chart. Ask students to select two to three words from the chart. They must show that they understand what the words mean by either drawing a quick sketch or writing a definition. As individuals share, the group will have multiple exposures to each of the vocabulary words.

How can predicting be practiced in a literacy center?

  • Students should choose from one of several nonfiction books (various levels should be available), articles, or a chapter in a content-area text, preview the work, and record on the prediction-recording chart two predictions they are able to make.

  • Select a book for the listening center that allows several opportunities for students to make predictions. Mark two to three stopping points with Post-it notes. Students should pause at these stopping points and discuss and support their predictions. The students can record their predictions by drawing pictures or by filling in the prediction-recording chart.

  • Students can create an illustration that shows what they think will happen to the main character after a book has been read aloud. The book should be available at the center.

  • Students can write or illustrate what they think might happen next in a chapter book you are reading aloud by reading the next few chapter titles and thinking about what has happened so far. The titles of the next several chapters should be posted at the center.

  • Using any text or article, students can work with a partner or small group to complete a vocabulary prediction chart once this has been modeled for the whole group. A template of a vocabulary prediction chart is provided here for your convenience.

How can instruction for predicting be differentiated?

Whole-group setting
  • Reading aloud to students, rather than asking them to read independently, allows students at all levels to focus on the strategy of predicting without worrying about solving words.

  • Allowing all students to respond through a pair-share, rather than calling on individual volunteers to talk while the majority simply listens, forces all students to be engaged.

  • Listening to students share their thinking with partners gives you the opportunity to informally assess student understanding. When students leave the whole-group setting to go to independent reading or centers, you can keep those students back whose responses indicated they need more specific examples and support.

Small-group setting
  • Small-group guided-reading setting: Select texts at the instructional level of the group. This allows students to practice strategies at their specific level.

  • Strategy group: Work with a group of students who show evidence of struggling with the same strategy, such as predicting. Provide additional think-alouds and examples to support learning and clear up misconceptions. Select texts that all students can read and that support the practice of the specific strategy being taught.

Literacy centers
  • Practicing strategies at the listening center allows students to focus on that specific strategy without worrying about solving words.

  • Centers in which the students are asked to read independently or with a buddy should include books and articles at various levels.

  • Responses will vary depending on the student's diverse strengths and areas of difficulty. Some students may draw pictures to complete graphic organizers and center work, whereas others may write lengthy, well-developed ideas.

How can assessment be integrated into teaching the strategy of predicting?

  • During a read-aloud, pause and ask students to record a prediction and to explain the reasoning behind their thinking.

  • Listening to students discuss and respond in partner sharing, reading conferences, and small-group and whole-group settings gives you valuable information about student understanding.

  • During individual reading conferences, ask students to orally make a prediction and provide evidence from the text to support that prediction.

  • The work that students complete at centers becomes valuable assessment data.

  • Ask students to respond both orally and in writing to questions that reflect how they are tested on the Ohio Achievement Test or other tests required by your district. For example, many prediction questions on the Ohio Achievement Test ask the readers to make predictions about what a character might do and support that prediction with evidence.

  • Ask students to write a journal entry in which they explain predicting and how it helps them as readers.

What are some additional resources related to predicting?

  • Fountas, Irene C., & Pinnell, Gay Su. (2006). Teaching for comprehending and fluency: Thinking, talking, and writing about reading, K–8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    This text covers prediction as well as other strategies for thinking within the text, thinking beyond the text, and thinking about the text. Strategies are discussed within a framework that will help meet the needs of all students. Many detailed small-group and whole-group sample lessons are included.

  • Outsen, Nicole, & Yulga, Stephanie. (2002). Teaching comprehension strategies all readers need: Mini-lessons that introduce, extend, and deepen key reading skills and promote a lifelong love of literature. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

    Chapter 5 of this teacher-friendly text includes mini-lessons to introduce and extend the strategy of predicting.

  • Szymisiak, Karen, & Sibberson, Franki. (2001). Beyond leveled books. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

    Pages 31 and 32 of this easy-to-read text provide a sample mini-lesson on supporting predictions by finding proof in the book. This and other mini-lesson examples use quality children's literature to help students understand strategies. On page 111 of the Appendix, there is a great handout that supports students making predictions before reading.

  • Guisinger, Paula. (2009). AdLIT reading strategies—Predicting, http://www.ohiorc.org/adlit/strategy/strategy_each.aspx?id=000009.

    This resource provides definitions and activities about predicting for adolescent readers. The resource would be especially helpful for third to fifth grade teachers looking to extend the strategy.

Key terms and definitions

Guided practice: According to Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis (2000, p. 13), guided practice involves a gradual release of responsibility to students. Immediately after a strategy has been modeled, the teacher and students practice together. The teacher scaffolds student attempts, provides feedback, and allows students to share with peers.

Mini-lesson: A short, often whole-group, lesson in which the teacher introduces a strategy, explains why the strategy is important, demonstrates the strategy, invites readers to try it, and clearly states what good readers do (Pinnell & Scharer, 2003, p. 176). The mini-lesson is interactive and based on student needs.

Pair-share: Following a mini-lesson, think-aloud, or specific teacher prompt, a pair of students engage in a discussion, practice a strategy, or respond together as a way of making meaning and connecting to what has been learned (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000, p. 39).

Predicting: Using what is known to anticipate what will follow while reading continuous text (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006, p. 53).

Strategy group: Grouping students based on evidence of need with a specific strategy or skill, rather than instructional level. In strategy groups, texts are selected that support practice with the skill or strategy being taught (Szymusiak & Sibberson, 2001, p. 64).

Think-aloud: An instructional demonstration in which the teacher models the processes and specific self-talk that he or she uses as an effective reader (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000, p. 33).


Feiffer, Jules. (1999). Bark, George. New York: HarperCollins.

Fountas, Irene C., & Pinnell, Gay Su. (2006). Teaching for comprehending and fluency: Thinking, talking, and writing about reading, K–8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fowler, Alan. (2000). Mammals of long ago. New York: Children's Press.

Harvey, Stephanie, & Goudvis, Anne. (2000). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension to enhance understanding. York, ME: Stenhouse.

Miller, Debbie (2002). Reading with meaning: Teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Pinnell, Gay Su, & Scharer, Patricia L. (2003). Teaching for comprehension in reading, grades K–2: Strategies for helping children read with ease, confidence, and understanding. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Szymisiak, Karen, & Sibberson, Franki. (2001). Beyond leveled books. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Jackie Wissman worked at Indianola Elementary in Columbus Public Schools for ten years as both a classroom teacher and Literacy Collaborative Coordinator. She has her MA from The Ohio State University with a focus on reading development. She works as a consultant to provide professional development focusing on supporting struggling adolescent readers.