Children have a lot on their minds; there is so much to learn that the powerful cognitive function of making inferences can be quite helpful, and not just from reading, either. In their early lives, children observe as much as they can from their siblings, parents, playground experiences, teachers, and a multitude of other people and events. From these observations, children make inferences that help them explain and understand the world, develop a framework for dealing with it, and perhaps theories the give that world and their lives in it purpose and meaning. Inferences, as we’ve noted in other sections of this book, are characteristic of good thinking habits. Here’s a secret: sometimes our inferences and mental representations (Gardner, 2006) are incorrect or only partially correct. Children, like the adults around them, work from such inferences and representations all the time. What children do with those constructs, and what teachers do to facilitate the process, is the real business of education. Teachers are in the business of changing minds. Gardner
suggests that changes of mind may be of two types: deepening one’s mental representations and transformation of the existing representations.
Anticipation is the emotion most often associated with prediction. The anticipation guide (Dufflemeyer, Baum, & Merkley, 1987) is a classroom structure with the potential to use prediction as a foundation for confronting the mental representations that exist as background and prior knowledge. Further, the anticipation guide may assist the thinking reader with deepening of existing mental representations or with a transformation of those structures. Once confronted, a thinker can purposefully construct new representations based on the new information presented. An anticipation guide is essentially a set of statements with which a student can agree or disagree or note as likely or unlikely during prereading. Once this existing knowledge is activated, students then read the text with the purpose of accommodating new information that differs from the existing knowledge. Once students realize that they must construct a new mental representation, a during or after reading opportunity should be provided for students to determine the compatibility of their pre-existing knowledge with that presented in the text.
Effective anticipation guides require some preparation and knowledge of students’ existing knowledge. The most daunting task for the teacher is in preparation of the statements to which students will respond. Statements used on anticipation guides may be flawed in three important ways (Dufflemeyer, 1994): 1). Students lack sufficient existing knowledge about the topic to form any reasoned judgment—remember we are promoting a change of mind, 2). The statement is based on ideas subordinate to major concepts—remember that new knowledge is constructed in the context of existing knowledge, and 3). The statement is common knowledge among students. To that end, effective statements convey major ideas, activate and draw upon students’ existing knowledge, are general in nature, and challenge students’ current mental representations.
Step by Step
- Review the text or other instructional material to identify the major concepts represented therein.
- Construct a series of statements, some supported by the text and others that are not, keeping in mind the principles of statement generation discussed above. Include a place for students to check whether they agree or disagree or whether a statement is likely or unlikely to be verified by the text. In most contexts, avoiding true and false options is preferable.
- Present the statements to students prior to reading. The statements, an anticipation guide, may be presented on a data projector, as a handout, or printed on a chalkboard. Some teachers tally student responses as a means of fostering discussion (Ryder & Graves, 2003); others ask students to compare responses with a partner (Fisher et al., 2007).
- Students read the text. As they do so, they should attempt to determine if their initial responses are supported by the material or if the materials suggests that the response should be changed.
- After students finish reading, ask them to respond again to the statement using the response option (agree/disagree, likely/unlikely); they should also be asked to explain why their initial responses were or were not supported encouraging them to confront the compatibility of pre-existing mental representations with what is in the text. This is often done in writing as part of an extended anticipation guide (Dufflemeyer & Baum, 1992). Teachers may choose to re-tally student responses to foster discussion among class members or ask students to compare revised responses with a partner or in a small group, again supporting the revised opinion based on the reading. We suggest that students may benefit if encouraged to find additional sources to support or push back against the text under consideration.
Applications and Examples
Mrs. Trish Schafer uses the anticipation guide to deepen students’ knowledge and challenge beliefs that might otherwise hinder learning about ancient river civilizations. Notice that she returns to the anticipation guide after reading and provides students with an opportunity to use the text to support their new understanding.
Figure 22.1 In her own words, Tricia Sents Schafer, Camden High School, Camden, New York
The textbook is broken into four sections; each section teaches students about a different ancient empire. Throughout our study of early civilizations we focus on how geography influenced the development of each unique civilization, and how later empires borrowed ideas from earlier empires. Thus far, my ninth-grade class has studied the Sumerian Civilization of Mesopotamia. As we begin our study of ancient Egypt, I will consistently refer back to ancient Sumer, so students can compare and contrast the technology, belief systems, inventions, government, and geography of these two civilizations. In order to prepare my students to read about the effects the Nile River had on Egyptian civilization, I created an anticipation guide. The guide includes five statements based on the reading assignment. My ninth-grade students will read each statement, and agree or disagree with each statement. In addition, students will be asked to justify their responses with a simple explanation as to whether they agreed or disagreed (Figure 22.2).
After completing the anticipation guide students will share their answers to the questions in their small groups and discuss why they agreed or disagreed with the statements. Based on our previous study of ancient Sumer students might recall that floods are not always destructive. In fact, yearly flooding allowed the Sumerians to farm in the middle of the desert. The floods would wash rich deposits of black silt onto the river banks, and the Sumerians used this soil to fertilize their fields. Thus, it follows students may generalize that a certain amount of flooding is necessary in order to be able to farm in the desert. In Sumer, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were unpredictable; therefore, dikes were built to prevent villages from being flooded. Students may believe this is always true of floods. However, as students read the paragraphs I will assign, they will discover that in ancient Egypt the flooding of the Nile was quite predictable and allowed them to establish a yearly cycle of flood, plant, harvest.
Students will be asked to read a section of the text about ancient Egypt. After reading the section students will revisit their anticipation guide and change any of their answers that may have been wrong. Students will return to their small groups for discussion and to support their changed responses.
Figure 2.2 Weather Conditions