TEACHING STUDENTS STRATEGIES FOR LEARNING HOW TO PREDICT

Merlyn is perhaps the most famous character in literature to predict what is to come, as the young Arthur, the once and future king, learns. “Education is experience, and the essence of experience is self-reliance” (White, 1958, p. 39).  Merlyn, in T. H. White’s version of the Arthurian legend, has an advantage that Arthur does not share.  He lives in reverse and explains to Arthur: “But I unfortunately was born at the wrong end of time, and I have to live backwards from in front, while surrounded by a lot of people living forwards from behind.  Some people call it having second sight” (p. 28).

Cognitive strategies and Instructional Routines

Unlike Merlyn, readers don’t have the advantage of having lived backward so they can see what’s coming.   However, as teachers, we can teach cognitive strategies that help readers explore the types of thinking that employ predictions, predictions that make use of important text cues and thus make predicting increasingly more accurate.  From our own teaching and from observing hundreds of classroom teachers in actual classroom practice, we know that teachers can weave the teaching of a number of cognitive strategies (presented in this section) and greatly facilitate student learning.  We also know that when students experience difficulty in comprehending text, teachers can isolate specific prediction strategies and provide more precise instruction.  As Fullan, Hill, and Crévola (2006) note, we don’t need more prescriptive teaching, but rather more precision in our teaching.  Focusing on predictions – both learning to predict and learning from predictions – allows for precision teaching if teachers address the conceptual understandings and sometimes the misunderstandings of their students.

In Part II of this e-book, the cognitive or thinking strategies that promote effective predictions are explored along with examples of how a teacher might encourage these. The term “strategies” circulates widely in discussions among educators and in textbooks (Kragler, Walker, & Martin, 2005); therefore, a distinction is drawn here that the authors have found useful.  Cognitive strategies are those that readers can consciously apply as they attempt to make sense of the texts they encounter.  As readers become increasingly proficient at selecting and applying a strategy, it becomes procedural and implicit; in other words, it becomes a skill (see Frey, Fisher, & Berkin, 2008).  Part III will investigate the connection between the cognitive strategies teachers teach students to employ (e.g., predicting and summarizing) and the classroom structures or instructional routines (e. g., DR-TA and reciprocal teaching) teachers use to promote strategic thinking in student readers.

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