It Doesn't Have to End That Way: Using Prediction Strategies with Literature

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
50 minutes
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After listening to the beginning of a story, students use details in the text, personal experience, and prior knowledge to predict the way the story will end. To support their predictions, the class discusses the plot elements of the book to the stopping point as well as experiences they have had with other books in the genre and in their own lives. Students individually create illustrations of the story's ending that reflect their predictions and share these illustrations with the class before the entire book is read again. After the entire book has been read, students compare their endings to the ending in the original story.

From Theory to Practice

In her article "Talking about Books: Beyond Decodable Texts-Supportive and Workable Literature," Dorothy Watson explores the ways that predictable texts and prediction strategies support readers. Watson summarizes Ken Goodman's explanation of the ways that readers use prediction strategies:

"In Phonics Phacts (1993), Goodman says that active readers don't wait until they have all the information before making up their minds; readers anticipate where a text is going, what will come next, and what structures they will meet. He tells us, ‘A prediction is an anticipation of what will come in the text' (p. 113)." (636)

By asking students to make predictions for a text that they have heard part of, this lesson works toward teaching students the strategies that active readers use as they read all texts (not just predictable books).

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Picture book such as Arthur's Computer Disaster

  • Art and writing supplies



  • Choose a picture book that appeals to early and emergent readers. Books from the Little Bill, Arthur, and Clifford series work well for this lesson. If you have been reading books on a particular theme or by a specific author, you might choose a book that fits with the current unit. This lesson plan uses Arthur's Computer Disaster by Marc Brown (Little, Brown, 1997) to demonstrate the reading and teaching strategies.

  • If desired, make copies or an overhead transparency of the Book Cover Questions for Arthur's Computer Disaster.

  • Gather art and writing supplies for students' illustrations of their book endings. Resources can include paper, markers, crayons, and colored pencils.

  • Test the Venn Diagram on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • discuss story elements in a story.

  • predict the ending of a story.

  • explain predictions during whole-class discussion.

  • compare their endings to the other students' and the story's ending.

Instruction & Activities

  1. Ask students to share definitions of the word prediction, and work from their definitions to form a class definition of the word.

  2. Ask students to brainstorm situations in which they use the ability to predict what will happen next. If students have difficulty thinking of examples, ask leading questions to help them gather a list of ways that they have already used prediction strategies. Adapt the following questions to make them specific for students (e.g., naming a television show or using the actual weather outside when you teach this lesson):

    • When you look outside what can you predict about the weather?

    • Have you ever predicted something about a television show or movie?

    • Do you ever know what someone else, like a family member or friend, will say in a particular situation?

    • Have you ever been able to tell what you were going to eat for a meal before anyone told you?

    • What can you tell about a story by looking at the cover of the book?
  3. Move from the question about the cover of a book to talk about the prediction project that students will complete in this lesson: The class will listen to the beginning of a story and then each student will predict the way that the story will end.

  4. To give students some practice with prediction, show the front cover of Arthur's Computer Disaster, and ask students to predict what the book will be about based on the images and words they see. Use the Book Cover Questions to guide the discussion. Record students' predictions on the board or on chart paper.

  5. Read the book, pausing as appropriate to point out details in the book that confirm the predictions that students made based on the cover. For instance, if students predicted that something would happen to the computer because of the mouse (since Arthur is holding the mouse on the cover), pause on the page where Arthur and Buster "both dove for the mouse" and the following page, which describes "The keyboard crashed to the floor" and compare the events in the book to students' prediction.

  6. Read the book to a point just before the final significant event. For Arthur's Computer Disaster, stop after reading the pages where Arthur's mother comes home and heads for the computer. The last line on these pages reads, "Arthur felt sick."

  7. Ask students to summarize what they has happened so far in the story, noting their comments on the board or on chart paper, so that they can refer to the information as they work on their own endings for the story.

  8. List the names of the characters and their roles in the story for students to refer to later as they create their own endings.

  9. Ask students to share any personal experiences that they have had in similar situations. Encourage students to talk about the situation and the outcome of their predicament.

  10. Ask students to discuss other books they have read that feature a similar situation—where a main character did something he or she was told not to and something bad happened. Have students share their memories of what happened in these stories.

  11. Summarize all of the information that students have to base their predictions for the ending of the story on.

  12. Explain that their ending must connect to information that was read during the beginning and/or middle of the story. The story has to make sense.

  13. Pass out drawing materials, and ask students to draw and/or write their endings.

  14. As students work, remind them to refer to the lists of characters and story elements as necessary. Because you do not want them to peek at the ending, do not allow them to explore the book on their own; however, if they ask you to reread a page, do so.

  15. Once students have drawn their endings, ask them to share their drawings with the group. Remind students that all endings are valid.

  16. Discuss similarities and differences among students' endings and ask them to explain the choices that they have made. Encourage connections to the details from the story, personal experience, and prior knowledge.

  17. Once all students have had a chance to share, read the ending to the story.

  18. Ask students to point out ways that their own endings connect with the portion that was read aloud. Encourage students to talk about how they predicted events in the ending of the book accurately.


  • Have students share their writing and illustrations with family members. Use the Launching Family Message Journals lesson plan to move the whole-class discussion to the home where family members can both praise student work and respond to it in writing.

  • Explore a range of stories that focus on variations to explore the ways that different readers and writers can think differently about the same basic story elements. Use examples of one story told in multiple ways, such as variations of The Three Little Pigs or another well-known story.

  • The ReadWriteThink lesson plan Completing the Circle: The Craft of Circular Plot Structure provides another opportunity to explore story predictable stories. After reading several stories with a circular plot, students use the structure as the basis of their own stories. Older students might try the lesson Unwinding A Circular Plot: Prediction Strategies in Reading and Writing.

  • Ask students to create new book covers that include details and clues that predict the endings of the books that they explore. Demonstrate how to use the Book Cover Creator, and ask students to choose the "Front Cover Only" option. The tool gives students options to add both text and images to their covers. The tool does not include an option to save the work, so be sure that students do enough planning that they will be able to complete their covers in one session.

  • Arthur's Computer Disaster is bound to raise questions about the best ways to use computer resources and other technologies that students have access to. Use the resources on this site to answer those questions for the class. The PBS resource The TV to Lesson Connection: Media Literacy includes a range of resources for exploring media literacy.

  • Using the PBS resource Group Stories, which is based on the Arthur series, have students collaborate on oral or written stories. As the stories pass from one group member to the next, students can use the same strategies for exploring what has already happened in the stories to help decide what should happen next in these original stories that they are composing. For more resources, check out the Arthur companion site.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • During discussion

    Generally observe students’ interaction and participation as they listen to the story and make predictions. Notice whether all the students contribute to the large group discussions, and particularly encourage those who do not usually participate.

  • During writing and illustrating

    As students work on their own endings to the story, look for ways that students’ writing and drawings connect to the story. Provide reinforcement for strong connections to details from the story, personal experience, or prior knowledge. If you notice students who are off target, ask questions that point to the lists and brainstorming that students have done to help them make stronger predictions.

  • After completing the activity

    1. Have the volunteer label one circle for the elements included only in the student’s ending and the other for elements included only in the book itself. Reserve the middle, overlapping area for elements that are in both versions of the ending.
    2. With the student’s ending and the original book on hand, work through the two endings and identify significant points with the student.

    3. Add these points to the Venn Diagram, placing the items in the appropriate area of the graphic organizer.

    4. Ask students to discuss the reasons that they have included the elements that that did in their endings.

    5. Focus discussion on the elements in the middle, overlapping area of the Venn Diagram, which represents accurate predictions that students have made.

    6. Encourage students to think through how they made these accurate predictions and provide support for these successful strategies.

    7. As appropriate, comment on predictions that stray too far from the main story, asking students to consider the evidence on hand (details from the story, personal experience, and prior knowledge) to determine why these predictions were inaccurate.

    8. End the conference with a summarizing comments that reinforce strong prediction strategies by naming and supporting them. Refer to inaccuracies only to provide scaffolding for future prediction activities.

    9. Arrange individual conferences with students, either completed by the teacher or a classroom volunteer, during which the Venn Diagram is used to compare each student’s ending to the ending in the book.
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