Making Predictions

by Carol Gaab


I was fortunate enough to attend two exceptional conferences back-to-back and have unique perspectives on each. It’s amazing how perspectives of language instruction/acquisition vary from region to region. In Hawaii (SWCOLT), there seemed to be a large number of ah-ha moments from teachers who truly had no previous exposure to or preconceived ideas about TPRS / TCI. In Ohio (CSCTFL), there were more ah-ha moments from teachers who had preconceived notions of (and a few previous negative experiences with) TPRS / TCI.

It is interesting and encouraging, however, that the more conferences I attend and the more teachers I meet (face-to-face vs. online), the more I realize that our passions, pedagogy and purpose are much more similar than different.  The TPRS Publishing booth was overflowing with inquisitive teachers wanting to know more about how to teach for proficiency.  I am greatly indebted to the following people who helped explain strategies, philosophies and experiences to the stream of people who came looking for more information: Kristy Placido, Carrie Toth, Teri Wiechart, Michele Kindt, Amanda Diaz Mora, Gary DiBianca and all the rest who may have helped while I wasn’t looking. I’m also grateful for friends/colleagues who helped me get set up for my presentations, Janet Holzer and Amy Lenord. It takes a village, and I am so grateful for all who extended a hand (and a hug). Thank you!!

I presented a session on inspiring higher-order thinking (HOT) and shared that making predictions generally requires inference and naturally inspires HOT in an effortless and effective way. I shared a few prediction activities that I use before we (my students and I) read a piece of text.  Afterwards, I had several people ask for more (since I couldn’t jam them all into a one-hour session). As promised, below I list TEN options for prediction activities. Remember, brains crave NOVELTY and can be fooled by the “illusion of novelty.”  Although I am sharing the same type of activity–making predictions– you will see how each prediction activity feels different and fresh. (When reading a novel, I use prediction activities before every upcoming chapter. My goal is to do a different prediction activity for each.)

NOTE: To make predictions, students need a clue, information or a prompt that will give them a basis for their prediction. Note that prediction activities could be based on an upcoming chapter in a novel, a news article, song lyrics, a poem. etc. Prompts might include a title, illustration(s), information from previous readings, clues, etc.

  1. MarchPredictionChart


  1. THE GREAT CARNAC (from Johnny Carson)

NOTE: If you are not familiar with Johnny Carson and the Great Carnac, search online to familiarize yourself with the shtick. Carnac (Johnny Carson) would read an “answer” on the outside of an envelope, pretending to be using telepathy to ascertain the “answer” to the statement which is held in the envelope.

Instead of making ‘jokes’, use the same shtick to make predictions. Write the answers on the outside of an envelope and pretend to divine the question or statement. It’s also fun to have students try to guess. Write some statements that truly could be logical predictions and write others that are ridiculous. Once you read the statement, elicit responses from your class about how logical or likely  the prediction is.

Imitate the Great Carnac, by placing the notecards inside of an envelope. Holding the envelope to your head, using your “staged” telepathy, read the outside of the envelope (the answer), open the envelope and read the question, all in the Target Language.


On the outside of the envelope, write the title. Using your telepathy, write various answers to what the problem or the accident might be (in the Target Language).

Brandon Brown, Ch. 6: “Un Secreto Problemático”

The puppy goes peepee on the floor.  Brandon goes peepee on the floor. The puppy escapes from Brandon’s room.

Frida Kahlo Ch. 10: “El Accidente Terrible”

Frida has an accident on her bike. Frida has a car accident. Frida has an accident with her umbrella.


Martina Bex shared some amazing word cloud activities on CIPeek a few weeks ago. She has fabulous ideas for using Word Clouds in unique ways.  For the specific task of predicting what a possible “reading” is going to be about, used word clouds to facilitate partner activities in which students use the word cloud to help them identify of key points of an upcoming reading.

REMINDER:  Prediction activities, including Word Cloud activities could be based on any type of reading: an upcoming chapter in a novel, a news article, song lyrics, a poem, a tweet or post, an advertisement, etc.

  • Identify the main character(s) of the upcoming reading.
  • Using the word cloud as your frame of reference, create a logical summarizing statement that reflects the main idea of the reading.
  • Using the word cloud as your frame of reference, create a logical supporting statement that supports your (predicted) main idea.
  • Using the word cloud as your frame of reference, create one statement that contradicts (or is the opposite of) what you predict will happen / what you think the reading is about.
  • Using the word cloud as your guide, write a sequence of 3 events or 3 statements that would be relevant to the reading.

Select one to three illustrations or photos from a reading, and discuss each illustration/photo with students. Ask very ‘benign’ questions about what they see in the photos/illustrations and get information about how students interpret each image. Based on the ‘data’ (perceptions) discussed, have students work with a partner to predict what will happen in the reading. If there are 3 illustrations, have students make one statement about each to make a coherent (discourse competence) prediction of the sequence of what will happen. NOTE: To avoid “spoilers,” I like to show the illustrations out of the actual order in which they occur/appear in the book. You may modify the activity by also asking students predict not only what is happening in each illustration but also the ORDER in which they will occur.


Write the title or headline of a text (news article, chapter title in a book, title of a song or poem) on the board, or simply show it to students from the book or article.  Only allow students to see the title (no text) and based on the title, have them (individually or in groups of 2-3) write 1 to 3 statements about what they think the reading will be about.

Read one student’s prediction to the class and ask if other students had the same prediction. Discuss what prompted them to make that prediction. Count how many students had the same prediction and tell students to place their predictions on the wall, keeping in mind that you are going to create the shape of a ‘title’ (tidal) wave as you place the post-it predictions on the wall. If only one person made a particular prediction, s/he would place their post-it note at the top of the wave. If the majority of students had the same prediction, those notes would be placed at the base of the wave. Some waves look very flat and others look more like a big ‘Hawaii Five-O’ wave, illustrating that there was a wide range of predictions made.

NOTE: If the title is of a news article or event with which students are already familiar, ask them to predict what will happen in the future. Carrie Toth shared a current event in our Content-based CI session at Central States. She shared how she ties narco-trafficking to gangs as part of her UBD unit for TPRS Publishing’s novel ‘Vida y muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha’.  Three years ago, she discussed the manhunt for the infamous drug king pin, El Chapo. She asked questions like, “Do you think that he will be captured? Who do you think will find him? etc.”

The following year, El Chapo was arrested, so the discussion transitioned to his arrest. This provided the perfect opportunity to reflect back to the previous year to see if student predictions matched what actually happened.

The third year of the El Chapo saga resulted in him escaping and ultimately being re-captured again. (I can’t describe as eloquently as she shared it.) Both were perfect set-ups for students to predict what they thought would happen…Would they find him? Where would they find him? Would they capture him peacefully? etc. Once he was captured, it would be the perfect time to compare predictions with actual results and predict his next potential escape.

I’m not suggesting that you drag out a prediction activity over the course of 3 years, but found it really interesting that Carrie was able to engage students effortlessly FOR 3 YEARS  using the same topic!


This is simply another name for telephone game. One person starts by whispering a sentence, in this case a prediction–to another student. That student repeats what s/he heard. The prediction (or sentence) continues to be whispered down the line until the last person hears the prediction. The last person says the prediction out loud.  The person who started the rumor  (made the prediction) shares the original statement, and the class has a discussion about how the statement changed. Encourage students to share what they thought they heard: “I heard ABC” “I heard ABX” etc.  Write the original prediction and the final prediction on the board. After just one ‘game, you may decide to begin reading. Or, you may decide to  play the game one more time to add more predictions to the list.  Read and then compare/discuss the actual outcome to the predictions (original and final) that were made and have students (individually or in groups) vote on their preferred prediction.

  1. CRAPS

In a nut-shell, Vegas-style craps works like this: Players choose a number or a few numbers on a table that has various cells with numbers in them. Players choose their numbers by placing their ‘bet’ (their chips) on those numbers. S/he then throws the die and if the number on the die match the number(s) chosen on the table, s/he wins.

Create a “table” or board by simply using butcher paper laid out on top of a table. Draw an empty chart with four to six blank cells and number each cell. The teacher writes down four to six possible predictions (on pieces of paper or post-it notes and places one in each cell.  I like to give each student a “chip” in the form of a Jolly Rancher or Starburst.

Discuss each prediction and then have student roll the die to be “assigned” a prediction. Students can roll individually or in small groups. If they roll a 4, then they must claim that prediction. They must place their ‘bets’ (piece of candy) on the number 4.

After much discussion and suspense-building, read the text. Whoever has their bet (or candy) on the correct prediction gets to keep their candy. Anyone who did not bet on the correct prediction must turn their candy back into the ‘Dealer’ (the teacher).

NOTE: I rarely include a prediction that is accurate or at least completely accurate.


Break the class into small groups of 4 to 6.  The teacher writes possible predictions on strips of paper. The number of strips should match the number of groups.  Some predictions should be logical and/or likely while others should be absurd. I like to make a few similar with subtle differences that make them more (or less) accurate. One at a time, have a group pull out one strip of paper from a hat or box. Have the group read the prediction and then discuss the likelihood of the prediction with the class. Do this until all the predictions have been drawn out of the hat.

Groups are assigned the prediction that they pulled out of the hat. I sometimes give groups the option to trade predictions (strips of paper) if they are convinced that the other group’s prediction is better. Read the text and determine which group drew the “winning” (correct) prediction.  I usually give the winning group some sort of ‘prize’.

NOTE: I rarely include a prediction that is accurate or at least completely accurate.


Have students write predictions on slips of paper. Place the slips of paper in a box. Pull them out one at a time and read each to the class.  Discuss each one and be prepared to laugh. Students tend to write pretty funny predictions since their predictions are anonymous.  If you have a large class, you may not want to pull out EVERY prediction. Continue the activity as long as you can sustain student attention.


 Use one of the prompts mentioned above to inspire students to make predictions about a reading.  Give them two minutes to discuss with a partner, then start a whole-class discussion by asking partners to share their predictions with the class. After you discuss each prediction, tell the class to select the four best choices.  Label each prediction with numbers 1-4, letters A-D or with a brief summary. Put one prediction in each corner of the room and tell students to GO to the corner with the prediction they agree with most.  Once students are in position, revive the discussion about why students chose that prediction and compare the number of students in each corner. Read and discuss who / how many students were right.

Carol Gaab,


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