“SUCCESSFUL READING is, in some respects akin to successful detective work.”
The essential element of making predictions while reading is exquisitely portrayed by Cramer (1970) in his article ‘Setting Purposes and Making Predictions: Essential to critical reading’. He describes the way Sherlock Holmes instructs his close friend Watson in the ‘art of deducing – the art of extrapolating and predicting’. The following extract from Cramer illustrates this notion.
In one of Holme’s great cases ‘The Reigate Squires”, the master detective hands Watson a hat that had come into his possession during the course of an investigation. Watson examines the hat carefully, noting its tattered condition, its red lining, its discoloration, the name of the maker, the initials of its owner, and certain stains upon its dusty and cracked exterior. Watson then hands the hat back to Holmes exclaiming. “I can see nothing.” Holmes remarks, “On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to draw inferences from what you see.”
What Holmes was trying to teach his good friend was that in order to be a great detective it is imperative to observe and make predictions and then re-evaluate those predictions as new information is learned. At the same time, these inferences are dependent on your personal experiences, prior knowledge and ability to make connections to the world around you.
Making predictions is equally important for young readers to master and involves actively engaging with books. This not only increases their enjoyment of reading and enhances comprehension skills, but will also positively influence their ability to engage in sustained reading, which is shown to have numerous benefits for literacy levels at all ages.
Earlier this year, Year 7 English classes were involved in an orientation to the library and a sequence of ‘wide reading’ lessons. The goal was for the boys to choose a book that they could enjoy and read over the holiday period with the aim of reading for pleasure and increasing their ability to engage in sustained reading.
The lessons were heavily focussed on reader predictions and students were guided through prediction cards designed to help them think critically and make inferences about what they were reading. Predicting involves anticipating what might come next and good readers actively ask and answer questions as they read. “Skilled readers learn to expect the actions, events and ideas that are coming up in the text”. (Davis, 2015, p. 51)
Based on the premise that a reader has opportunities to predict before, during and to reflect after reading, the Year 7 students were given three prediction cards to fill out. The first card, to be completed before reading, scaffolded various elements to assist the students to make predictions about their chosen book. These included the title, previous experiences, the cover, the blurb on the back and the first page.
The second card, to be completed while reading, conveys the idea that we pause and make predictions about what will happen next, how the characters will behave and the theme of the story, based on what we have read. We also make a judgement about whether our predictions have been right so far or consider what has happened in the story to change our predictions.
The third card, to be completed after reading, included a series of open-ended questions for the students to complete. They were encouraged to provide evidence to support their answers. These included:
The one thing I liked most about this book…
If I were the author the one thing I would change is…
After reading this book I can see that my predictions were…
I would recommend this book to ……….
The year 7 students were interviewed about their books after the holiday period. They were involved in the planning for this process and constructed the interview questions in groups. Some of these included:
- When did you start reading this book and why do you think you chose it?
- Does the cover of the book give too much away about what is going to happen in the book?
- How has this book impacted your life?
- What would you predict next if there was another book?
It was evident from their responses that the Year 7 students had engaged closely with their books and that critical thinking was a part of their reading experience.
Remember to read like a detective!
We need to remember to make inferences and think critically about what we are reading, to be active in our reading by making predictions before, during and after reading.
By Mrs Heanly
Cramer (1970, p 259 ) Setting Purposes and Making Predictions: Essential to Critical Reading. Journal of Reading Vol. 13, No. 4 (Jan., 1970), pp. 259-262 (4 pages) Published by: International Literacy Association and Wiley