Why should my child make predictions when we read?

One reading comprehension strategy I used to spend a lot of time practicing with my class is Making Predictions. When a reader predicts what will happen next in a story, they are actively engaging with the text; in order to make a good prediction, they need to think about what they already know about the characters, what has happened in the story so far, and what they know about the text genre as well.

As long as a prediction is logical, don’t worry if it is incorrect.

When making predictions, what is important is that they make sense. As long as a prediction is logical, don’t worry if it is incorrect. For example, let’s say you are reading a story about a little girl who absolutely hates talking in front of her class. Then the teacher calls on her to tell the class about her summer. What do you think will happen? If you pose this question to your child, and they are comprehending the story pretty well, they might say something like “she will get upset” or “she will cry.” Even if she doesn’t get upset or cry, this is a logical prediction given what you already know about this character. This is a great way to check for understanding, because if your child says, “She will be happy and tell the class all about what she did,” then you know that your child may have missed an important detail about the character, and you can follow up with, “Why do you think that? Let’s go back and see how she usually feels about talking in front of her class.”

Again, predictions do not have to come true, as long as they make sense. This is extremely important to keep in mind, and to model for your reader. If your child is prompted to make a prediction and they think they have to be right, it can feel like a trap. How can you help them feel comfortable with their predictions being wrong? Two ways:

1) Purposely make wrong (but logical) predictions yourself. Let’s use the previous story about the girl who doesn’t like speaking in front of her class. When the teacher calls on her to share, model your thought process for your child. “Hmm… What do I think will happen next? Well I know that the last time she was called on, she slumped down in her chair and wished she were invisible, so I know she does not like speaking in front of her class. This time, I think maybe she will cry because she feels nervous.” Now let’s say in this story, the girl does not cry, but instead she goes up and shares but stares at the floor the entire time. Did your prediction come true? No, but it made sense. It will help ease your child’s fear of being wrong if they see that the PROCESS of making a prediction is more important than the OUTCOME.

2) Use positive language. Say “the author SURPRISED me” rather than “my prediction was wrong.” When you are finished making your prediction, keep reading and then stop when you find out whether or not your prediction came true (it didn’t!). Then use POSITIVE language to talk about what happened. Ask your child “Did our prediction come true, or did the author surprise us?” This helps reframe their thinking so that they aren’t fixating on whether a prediction was RIGHT OR WRONG, instead their prediction either CAME TRUE or they were SURPRISED. When I used this language with my students, they were so excited to find out what happened next, and they were just as excited when they were “surprised” as when they were correct.

Did you give this strategy a try? Leave a note in the comments and let me know how it went!

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