Predicting belongs to a set of strategies called Reciprocal Teaching or Collaborative Teaching. Predicting asks students to take in information (a headline or title, a picture, a summary, or a chart) and make an informed guess as to the ideas or concepts that might appear in a text. After making a prediction, students read or listen to a text and either confirm or revise their predictions.

Beginning-level English language learners may not have sufficient fluency to generate predictions. They may need additional input that can enrich their background knowledge and increase their vocabulary before they can predict. For this group, simple graphics without text might serve as a starting point (no smoking signs or visuals for tow-way zone).  Or you might show an emergency kit and have students predict what’s inside.


The predicting strategy activates students’ background knowledge and starts engagement with key concepts. It activates background knowledge and shows students that they are smart enough to figure things out even if they have trouble with English or with reading. Students learn to make connections between their own prior knowledge and the ideas in a text. It’s helpful for students to see that sometimes their predictions are off and they have to stop and think and possibly revise their predictions. Predicting and revising also assist students in thinking while they listen or read, as they pay attention to see if they were right in their predictions. Having students revise their prediction supports “rereading,” an important component of comprehension, especially for struggling readers.

What to Do

1.Introduce the strategy and discuss why it is important. Explain to students that thinking about texts (visual, oral, written) engages the brain and helps greatly in understanding. Stress that students will comprehend more and remember more if they think while they watch, listen or read.

2.Explain to students that daily life is not possible without constant predictions (e.g., you may ask “How do you find things you always buy in a new store? You use your background knowledge. You predict that the milk and the butter will be close to each other or that the eggs will be in the refrigerated section (not true in other countries – so use this as an example of “revising” predictions.

3.To illustrate how the mind makes predictions and then confirms or revises them, use an activity such as “Thingamagigs” to let students experience how their mind tries to make sense out of information that is presented bit by bit.

4.Select a text students might read in class. Choose a reading with titles, pictures, and graphs that make predictions and informed guessing worthwhile. Ask the class to generate vocabulary and ideas that they think they might find in the text using their background knowledge and other clues. Encourage thoughtful predictions (Amazing Stories or stories about accidents or natural disasters seem to work well.

5.Create a few True/False statements to build suspense and ask students to make informed guesses as to which statements about the passage or story are right or wrong (informational texts work best). Include the main points of the text as well as details. Ask students to discuss their predictions in pairs or small groups. Explain that the answers will be found in the text (oral or written), but for now, you just want to see how good the class is at using their prior knowledge of the world to guess the right answer. Keep track on a flip chart.

6.Read the text with the class or ask students to read the text and then ask students to work individually or in small pairs. Ask them to highlight all the words and ideas they predicted and underline all the true statements that they had guessed right. Congratulate them when they are right.

7.Explain that sometimes we predict right and sometimes our guesses are wrong because every one’s brain works differently, and sometimes we don't have enough information to make thoughtful predications.

8.Ask students to circle the statements that are contrary to their guesses and discuss why there is a mismatch between what they expected to find and the content of the text. Bring the class together and reflect on the strategy (use and importance). Continue using the strategy with different kinds of text.

Keep in Mind

For ESL students, predicting the meaning of unknown words from surrounding text is very difficult since many of their challenges lie in making sense of unknown sentence structures and not just in new words. ESL students often don’t know the synonyms that may appear in a text that provide a clue to a difficult word.  These students are much better served if the teacher provides texts that are rich in text aides or that have descriptive titles such as “Texas farm worker wins lottery” or “Five Thousand Refugees from Iraq have permission to enter the US.”


The Saskatchewan Evergreen Curriculum provides an excellent chart that lays out a variety of comprehension strategies to be used before, during, and after reading.

•The Northwest Regional Laboratories explain “predicting” as part of a larger framework on “reciprocal” (or collaborative) teaching. This page focuses on predicting and questioning and suggest ways to assess students’ competence in using the strategy

•The Florida Department of Education provides guidance on using a number of strategies, including making predictions

•The Greater Pittsburg Literacy Council provides some ideas on how to use the Prediction Strategy with Adults.

•This Lesson Plan from Read-Write-Think shows how the Predicting Strategies can be used with young learners. The lesson can be adapted for adults new to literacy by selecting information texts, such as magazine articles on topics of interest.

•A second lesson plan suggests using trade books and employing prediction strategies to help younger students set purposes for reading

•This Illinois site includes a lesson on “Predicting a Past” that asks students to use the scientific method to make predictions as to the use and importance of artifacts. Using information from a museum site, they also make informed guesses as to the lives of people who used these artifacts.

•Here is a classic story for having student make predictions, the Cemetery Path