When my family visited our local Butterfly Garden a few weeks ago, none of us could have predicted that one of the beautiful creatures would have landed on our Owen first.
Of the five of us, he was the least still; he was buzzing around the greenhouse, smelling flowers and hunting for butterflies left and right.
Cora and Maddy, on the other hand, sat for so long, hoping, wishing, praying that a butterfly would land on them. All to no avail. The second Owen sat down, one brave butterfly landed on his tiny, sweaty leg and stayed for quite some time.
Teaching emerging readers the comprehension strategy of making predictions doesn't have to be as hit or miss as our day at the greenhouse. With deliberate modeling and careful comments by parents or teachers, little ones will be making logical predictions during read-alouds before you know it!
- Predicting: Predicting, as a reading strategy, is actually just using pictures or text to make a guess about what will happen in piece of literature. Even our little ones can do this by looking at the cover of a book, the illustrations on a page, or hearing the title or story read-aloud.
Predicting is one of the easiest comprehension strategies to use with emerging readers, and like many of these important components of early literacy, predicting can be taught even before children can read on their own.
I recently modeled predicting for Maddy, Owen, and Cora by looking at the cover of Bear Feels Scared and by talking about what I saw:
I said, This is a new Bear book for us, and the title is 'Bear Feels Scared'. I wonder what Bear is afraid of. Hmmmm. Look at the cover. What do you see?
Owen mentioned that there were things in front of Bear's face, like maybe rain or snow. He also said, It doesn't look like it's sunny out.
You're right, Owen. It doesn't look like it's a warm and sunny day, does it? Cora, what time of day does it look like it is for Bear and his friends? What do you think?
Cora said, Maybe night-night time for them? (Woo-hoo!)
Yep, I think you're right. It's dark, it's rainy and windy, and some of Bear's friends have worried faces. What might make Bear feel scared in this book? Can you make a prediction? A prediction just means you're making a guess about something.
Owen said, Maybe Bear is afraid of the dark.
Cora added, He thinks there's a monster in his room. (Oh my gosh--maybe this is why Cora's been up waaaay too late recently?! Maybe this is why she's been so cranky? Note to self: tackle monster topic asap.)
You both made some really good predictions; Bear may be afraid of the dark, and maybe he does think there's a monster in his room. Let's read and find out.
About mid-way through the story, we chatted about their predictions; we confirmed that it was indeed nighttime, and we learned that what made Bear feel scared was that he was lost and lonely in the dark and he wanted to be home with his friends. Yeah for Owen and Cora! They learned about predicting!
I've had predicting on the brain ever since I read an article in this month's Reading Teacher , a chapter from Liang and Galda's Children's Literature in the Reading Program, 3rd ed. The chapter actually focused on ways to combine response activities and comprehension strategies to enhance students' engagement--and appreciation--of texts. It was really interesting and is worth checking out. The focus on responding and practicing predicting was actually with upper elementary students but also mentioned were some cool ways of using responding and practicing visualizing for the younger readers. I hope to try them out soon.
Liang and Giada say that "predicting is easy to teach and is an easy strategy for students to learn" and that "it is also a strategy that research shows to be quite powerful in helping students better understand a text."
Predicting--try it today because:
- it can be used with just about anything, including just about any decent children's book;
- it gets kiddos thinking (woo-hoo!);
- it keeps them engaged in the text because they wonder if what they think will happen actually will (they'll feel like little detectives!);
- it will help them to remember what they've read;
- if we start modeling--and practicing--these reading strategies now, with our little ones, our kiddos will become adept at doing these kind of things on their own as they become stronger readers;
- soon predicting will be just another natural reading activity that our kids will do unconsciously, which will make them better readers and thinkers. (seriously!)
You can find more on this topic and others over at teach mama, where Amy shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her children's every day. . . or as often as she can with a 6, 4, and 3 year old. Or join her--and many other ABC & 123 friends--at we teach where they're chatting up a storm, sharing ideas, and learning a little themselves.