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Predicting and Previewing


Predicting, like visualizing, requires readers to access their own relevant background knowledge or schema and prepare to organize new information accordingly. Essentially, readers must summarize what they know from the text so far, put it in the context of their related schema about genre and topic, predict the flow of main ideas or thrust of a plot, and then select structures or details that might logically follow. Authors’ use of text structure, text signals, and visual text features provide multiple clues that support meaningful prediction.

Reading Signals in the Text

In the case of text structure, students may be much more familiar with using prediction with narrative than with informational text, but prediction can be a particularly valuable strategy for navigating challenging informational text. In a narrative structure, students might predict “The girl has learned she is strong, now the horse will die”; with informational text, students might use their knowledge of text structure to predict “That was one cause of the Civil War, now it’s going to tell about another one” or “This definition of molecule is going to be followed by examples that will make the definition easier to understand.”

At another level, instead of predicting how text structure will contribute to meaning, readers keep track of text signals and predict where the text will go. Text signals allow readers to make predictions about how the author’s use of these language markers will contribute to meaning. Text signals include punctuation and transition words such as however, including, in other words, and for example to signal the path an author has created for readers to follow. In addition, informational text includes visual text features such as subtitles, bullets, and highlighted vocabulary that provide clues for what is important and what is to come. These clues help readers predict or prepare for new ideas or information.

The author’s purposes in using text structure, text signals, and text features may seem self-evident to experienced readers, but many students miss these clues without explicit instruction. In Chapter Eight, as we focus on the knowledge-building dimension of Reading Apprenticeship, signal words and visual text features are discussed again, as examples of the knowledge about text and language structures that students need to build.

Building Engagement

Predicting can also serve to build students’ engagement with text. When readers predict, they establish a particular purpose for reading: to see whether their predictions bear out. Sometimes students will naturally keep track of their predictions and check on how they are or are not unfolding. But if predicting is a new strategy for students, an activity like How Are My Predictions Doing? in Box 7.15 can provide effective practice.

Previewing Informational Text

When teachers ask students to preview an informational text before reading it, they are asking students to activate their schema about the text content and structure as well as to develop personal reasons for reading the particular text. Previewing helps students prepare to engage the reading task. (A discussion of previewing fiction when students are making personal selections for literature circles appears in Chapter Five. Previewing books for Sustained Silent Reading is discussed in Chapter Six.)

With practice, previewing informational text can become almost automatic, but when students are first learning to preview, they benefit from an enumeration of things to look for and questions to answer. They also need opportunities to share what they are learning. Through metacognitive conversations, students can come to appreciate that previewing helps them anticipate what will be interesting about a text or what makes them better able to approach a difficult or unappealing text.

Questions such as those in Box 7.16 can guide students, when approaching informational text, to recognize and use personal resources: their evolving learner identity and their existing schema.


To help students learn to check and revise their predictions as needed while they read, How Are My Predictions Doing? is simple and quick.


  • Provide students with reading material chunked at points that allow for prediction, such as the beginning of a chapter in a novel, or one subheading at a time in expository text.
  • At the beginning of each chunk, ask students to make a prediction, an educated guess, or a hypothesis about what will follow in the text.
  • At the end of their reading, ask students to check and see whether their predictions made sense and why or why not.

The following notetaker can help students get used to checking their predictions and getting better at making them.

When students preview a text, they give themselves a head start on understanding it. Not only do they preview what they may know about the content, but they also get a focused look at the clues embedded in the text structure and text features. Most important, they develop a sense of how they may be able to engage the text at a personal level: what demands will the text make on their perseverance and stamina, and what rewards may their effort provide?

The following list of sample previewing questions starts and ends with how the reader will make the reading task personally relevant. In between are questions that relate to the reader’s schema.

  • How does reading this text relate to me personally? Why am I reading it? How will I benefit?
  • How does the content of this text relate to what I already know? What do I know and want to know about this topic? What concerns or questions do I have?
  • What do I need to know about the author, publisher, and intended audience? Is this a reliable source? Why was this text written?
  • How does the structure of this text relate to what I already know? What genre is this? What are its characteristics? How will the text be organized? What can I learn from the title, copyright date, table of contents?
  • How do the text features relate to what I already know? What can I learn from the headings, subheadings, questions, bullets, illustrations, captions, etc.? How are they intended to aid comprehension?
  • How do features of the typography relate to what I already know? Why are bold, italics, size, and color used here? How are they intended to aid comprehension?
  • What is my purpose for the reading? Therefore, what reading processes will I use?

From Reading for Understanding, pp 222-226

DMU Timestamp: December 19, 2018 18:14

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