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Engagement is a major goal all teachers have for their students.  To be engaged in reading, to want to read to understand, is directly linked with learning (Frey, 2004; Guthrie & Wigfield, 1997).  In other words, it’s hard to learn in the absence of engagement.

When students make predictions in an authentic way, they are more engaged in reading, talking, writing, listening, and learning. Making predictions requires that the learner is paying attention to the task at hand.  Making predictions also encourages students to talk with one another and with their teacher – another way to increase engagement.

As you no doubt noticed from Ms. Martinez’s and Mr. Jackson’s classrooms, students were engaged in the lesson.  They were paying attention; their brains were focused on the text and what they wanted to know about the text.  In both cases, student learning increased because of this engagement.

Activating Existing Knowledge

In making a prediction, students use what they already knew to inform their supposition of what might happen next.  Making a prediction requires that students think about what they already know, what their life experiences have taught them, and about how the world works.  Beyond engagement, activating and building background knowledge is directly linked with student achievement (Marzano, 2004).

The best example of activating background knowledge we have presented thus far occurred in Mr. Jackson’s classroom.  He regularly asked students to incorporate what they already knew – from personal experience or formal schooling – into their responses.  In doing so, Mr. Jackson facilitated his students’ use transaction with the text and the development of their schema for understanding the world.

Exercising the Use of Reading Strategies

When students make predictions at the onset of their reading or as they engage in reading, they will benefit from using a wide variety of reading skills and strategies beyond “predictions.”  Of course, predicting requires the integration of a number of strategies, such as visualizing, inferring, summarizing, and connecting.  With practice, students will begin making predictions and using strategies with increased automaticity and ease.

Of course, using reading strategies in authentic ways improves students’ achievement (Fisher & Frey, 2004).  Not all students are aware of all the strategies available to them to improve their ability to make reading predictions.  However, teachers can provide students a wide repertoire of strategies that can help them self-regulate their own reading and becoming better predictors and thus skilled readers.

In the class scenarios in this section, students engaged in text clues, inferring, summarizing, and making connections. Ms. Martinez, for example, helped students use visual clues and specific words in making predictions.  Mr. Jackson focused on connections and summarizing as his students made predictions.

While these teachers helped their students make predictions based on reading, making predictions is not new.  Humans have used their skills in predicting for centuries.  Predicting, at least at the human level, can even be considered a survival skill.

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