Teaching Prediction Using Picture Books

Renee Kirchner
by Renee Kirchner

Prediction is an important reading skill that children must develop. It helps them to understand stories and create meaning as they read. Teachers can help children learn how to use clues from a story to predict what will happen next. One of the best types of text for teaching predicting is the circular story.

Circular stories follow a pattern. They end the same way they began after following a series of predictable events. Talk to children about other things that follow a circular pattern such as seasons or an animal’s life cycle. Explain that every year we have four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. We always have four seasons and we can predict the type of weather to expect because it follows a circular pattern each year. Let them know that some stories are predictable, just like seasons, because they follow a circular pattern.

There are many fine examples of picture books that you can use to teach prediction. Read some of the stories listed below and ask children to predict what will happen next when you read. It might be helpful to draw a circle on the board and write out the plot points. This will illustrate how the story comes back around to the place that it started.

Picture books with circular plots:

The Relatives Came
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

When relatives arrive from Virginia, the house is filled with people and good times. There are so many relatives that they can’t all eat at the same time and they sleep on top of each other. At summer’s end, the relatives leave and the house seems big and quiet again. But, the relatives will be back again next summer.

Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch

Stephanie arrives at school one day with a ponytail. The next day, all the girls are wearing ponytails, too. Stephanie wears her hair differently every day trying to thwart the copycats. Finally she tells her classmates that she is going to shave her head. The story has a surprise twist ending. The cumulative text is great for teaching how to make predictions.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Numeroff

In this modern-day classic, one simple act, giving a mouse a cookie, triggers a whole set of other events. The demanding mouse needs a glass of milk after eating the cookie and so on and so on. Children will enjoy guessing what the mouse will need next.

Too Many Tamales
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto

Maria thinks that she lost her mother’s diamond ring in a batch of tamales she was making for Christmas dinner. When her cousins arrive, she tells them the problem and they help her look by biting into each of the tamales. Soon all of the tamales are gone and they have to make another batch.

Seven Little Rabbits
Seven Little Rabbits
by John Becker

Seven little rabbits go down the road to visit their friend toad. This repetitive text keeps children guessing if any of the rabbits will make it to toad’s house. One by one they get tired and need to take a nap. The rhyming text makes for a great read aloud.

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