Making Predictions: A Strategy for Reading and Science Learning

Reader. Image courtesy of bowmanlibrary, Flickr.

Making predictions is a strategy in which readers use information from a text (including titles, headings, pictures, and diagrams) and their own personal experiences to anticipate what they are about to read (or what comes next). A reader involved in making predictions is focused on the text at hand, constantly thinking ahead and also refining, revising, and verifying his or her predictions. This strategy also helps students make connections between their prior knowledge and the text.

Students may initially be more comfortable making predictions about fiction than nonfiction or informational text. This may be due to the fact that fiction is more commonly used in early reading instruction. Students also tend to be more comfortable with the structure of narrative text than they are with the features and structures used in informational text. However, the strategy is important for all types of text. Teachers should make sure to include time for instruction, modeling, and practice as students read informational text. They can also help students successfully make predictions about informational text by ensuring that students have sufficient background knowledge before beginning to read the text.

Predicting is also a process skill used in science. In this context, a prediction is made about the outcome of a future event based upon a pattern of evidence. Students might predict that a seed will sprout based on their past experiences with plants or that it will rain tomorrow based on today’s weather. Teachers can help students develop proficiency with this skill by making connections between predicting while reading and predicting in science. Students will not necessarily make these connections independently, so teacher talk and questioning are important.

Sometimes, teachers will use the terms prediction and hypothesis interchangeably in science. While the terms are similar, there are subtle differences between the two. A hypothesis is a specific type of prediction made when designing and conducting an investigation in which a variable is changed. For example, students might write a hypothesis about what will happen to a plant’s growth if the amount of water is increased. A hypothesis is often written as an “If…then…” statement.

The distinction between a prediction and a hypothesis is not something that elementary students need to understand and explain. However, teachers can be cognizant of how they use these words during science instruction – using prediction for statements of what might happen based on prior knowledge or evidence and hypothesis only when an investigation calls for a variable to be changed.

For More Information

This page provides an overview of the reading strategy, an explanation of how predicting supports reading comprehension, and several activities that support students in predicting. The article also includes a list of Ohio’s Academic Content Standards as they relate to predicting.

This article discusses the strategy of predicting and why it is important. It also includes ideas for supporting students as they become proficient in making predictions about text.

Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DRTA)
DRTA is a way to support students as they practice making predictions from a text. This article provides a step-by-step sequence for teachers who wish to create a directed reading thinking activity with any type of text.

Tips for Success with Informational Text
This brief article discusses five steps that can help students make predictions about an informational text. Students preview the article and then jot down words that they would expect to find in the article.

The Science Process Skills
This article includes definitions of both prediction and hypothesis as they apply to science.

Learning and Assessing Science Process Skills
This book explains basic and integrated science process skills and provides activities to help your students develop these skills.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. Jessica is an education resource specialist at The Ohio State University and project director of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. She has taught in elementary and middle school settings. Email Jessica at

Copyright February 2011 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National  Science Foundation under Grant No. 1034922. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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