The Role of Prediction in Reading Comprehension: Techniques for Teachers


Reading comprehension is more than just understanding the words on a page. It’s about connecting, anticipating, and delving into the depths of a text. One of the cornerstones of this active engagement is the skill of prediction. By anticipating what comes next in a text, students can better understand and remember what they’re reading.

So, why is prediction such a vital tool in a teacher’s educational arsenal? Let’s dive deeper and see why and how educators can teach prediction skills. Also, read more about making predictions anchor charts and enhancing the teaching process.

The Science Behind Prediction in Reading


From a neurological perspective, our brains are designed to anticipate. Each day, outside of reading, we’re engaged in a constant dance of prediction, whether that’s anticipating a friend’s reaction, forecasting the weather, or guessing the end of a movie. It’s a skill that’s deeply embedded in our cognitive makeup.

Reading, in essence, mirrors this daily practice of prediction. As eyes skim words and sentences, the brain is tirelessly working in the background, assembling pieces of information, referencing past experiences, and forecasting what might be around the textual corner.

Why is this? The act of prediction, from an evolutionary standpoint, was critical. Our ancestors survived by being able to anticipate threats or opportunities in their surroundings. Over millennia, this predictive capacity became refined and began to play a role in more cerebral activities, like reading.

When students harness the power of prediction in reading, they’re doing more than taking educated guesses. They’re tapping into a rich tapestry of prior knowledge, weaving connections, and preparing neural pathways to assimilate incoming information. As they predict, they’re prepping their brains to accept and integrate new data seamlessly.

The Benefits of Using Prediction in the Classroom


Predictive reading isn’t just a buzzword; it has tangible benefits that can elevate the learning experience. Here’s why embedding this approach in the classroom matters:

  • Engagement Amplified: Predicting naturally piques curiosity. When students forecast what’s next, they become invested in their reading journey, eager to confirm or adjust their anticipations.
  • Critical Thinking Boost: Making predictions isn’t about right or wrong but about thinking deeply. Whether a prediction hits the mark or misses, the process encourages analytical skills and reflective thinking.
  • Active Over Passive: Predictive reading transforms students from passive receivers of information to active participants. With each prediction, they’re interacting, questioning, and connecting with the content.
  • Enhanced Memory: The act of forecasting and then verifying helps information stick. When students predict, they’re more likely to remember, as they’ve personally engaged with the content, rather than just skimming through.
  • Building a Bridge to Real Life: Life is unpredictable, but we’re always trying to anticipate what’s next. By cultivating predictive skills in reading, we’re preparing students for real-world scenarios, where forecasting outcomes is a valuable skill.

Incorporating prediction in reading not only enhances comprehension but also instills skills that resonate beyond the classroom’s walls.

Practical Techniques for Teachers to Foster Predictive Reading Skills


Teaching students to predict is more than just asking them what they think will happen next. It’s about offering structured activities and guided discussions to refine this skill. Here’s a closer look at some effective techniques:

Pre-Reading Activities

  • Picture Walk: Before diving into a text, flip through its pages and discuss illustrations, photographs, or graphics. Ask students what they think might happen or what the main topic could be based on these visual cues. This primes them for the content and sets an anticipatory tone.
  • Title Predictions: Use the title, chapter headings, or subheadings to spark discussions. What might the story or article be about? This simple activity can stimulate a lot of curiosity.
  • KWL Charts: This stands for “What do I Know?”, “What do I Want to know?”, and “What did I Learn?”. Before reading, fill out the first two columns. This not only taps into prior knowledge but also plants seeds of anticipation.

During Reading Activities

  • Pause and Predict: While reading, stop at predetermined points to discuss what might happen next. This not only keeps engagement levels high but also ensures that students are following along and understanding the material.
  • Interactive Annotations: Encourage students to jot down their predictions in the margins or use sticky notes. As they read further, they can confirm or revisit their earlier thoughts.
  • Think-Alouds: Particularly useful for younger students, this method involves the teacher reading out loud and verbalizing their predictive thoughts. This models the process and shows students how to make informed guesses.

Post-Reading Activities

  • Verification and Reflection: After completing the reading, revisit earlier predictions. Which were accurate? Which were off? Discuss why and what cues in the text might have led to those predictions.
  • Prediction Review: Ask students to summarize the text based on their initial predictions and the actual content. This can lead to insightful discussions about the importance of staying open-minded and adaptable when reading.
  • Extension Activities: Turn predictions into creative projects. Maybe a student predicted a different ending to a story? Have them write it out. Or perhaps they foresaw a different solution to a problem in a non-fiction piece? They could create a presentation on it.

Addressing Common Challenges


Every teaching strategy comes with its set of challenges, and predictive reading is no exception. Here’s how to navigate some common hurdles:

  • Consistently Off-Mark Predictions: If a student frequently mispredicts content, it might indicate a lack of background knowledge or comprehension issues. Address this by revisiting foundational concepts or offering supplemental reading to bridge the knowledge gap.
  • Balancing Predictions with Reading Flow: Some students might get so engrossed in the act of predicting that it disrupts their flow. To counter this, set specific points for prediction rather than encouraging it after every paragraph or page.
  • Avoiding Wild Guesses: While it’s essential to encourage freedom in making predictions, it’s equally important to base them on textual evidence. Reinforce the need to back up predictions with reasons rooted in the content.
  • Differentiating for Reading Levels: Not all students are on the same reading level. Tailor prediction exercises to suit diverse capabilities, ensuring that every student can engage without feeling overwhelmed or under-challenged.


Predictive reading is not merely a classroom strategy; it’s a skill for life. In our dynamic world, the ability to anticipate outcomes based on available evidence is invaluable.

As educators, when we arm our students with the power of prediction, we’re not just enhancing their reading comprehension. We’re also equipping them with a critical thinking tool that they will carry with them beyond the walls of the classroom, into the vast, unfolding story of their lives.