Fun with Predictions

You're a literacy teacher looking for a way to talk about reading strategies, make that discussion accessible for students and hopefully engage them in the process.

One strategy you want to illustrate is prediction. The idea is that active readers use clues from the text to guess what is going to happen next. Then the reader gathers information from the text to confirm or not confirm that prediction. This helps make reading active and assists in making meaning.

-- If you want to use a Choose Your Own Adventure book to model predictions, continue reading below.

-- If you want to find another way because you think CYOA books aren't rigorous enough, click here

Last week I used a CYOA book (the one featured to the left) and found it to be very helpful. If you've read them before, you'll notice I modeled how it works above. If you haven't read one, then you'll likely be confused about what I'm talking about and should go get one and check it out. Then come back and read this post!

I read the story aloud to students and asked them to help me make decisions about where we should take the story next. When we came to a decision, I asked students to turn to the person next to them and discuss which is the best decision and why. Then I called on volunteers and usually quiet students to argue for us to make one choice over the other. Then we voted and moved on.

Before voting and prior to their discussions with their partners, I also asked students to talk about what they think will happen if we made one decision over the other. I wanted them to use what we've read so far to make guesses about the consequences of those decisions. Basically, "what clues do we have so far that make one decision over the other."

Students were engaged and begged me all week to continue reading so they could find out what happened. Students who normally don't engage during a think aloud (which we call "demos") had tons to say when called on, and our discussions were very rich. Honestly, these days were among the best moments I've had in my short career as an educator. Obviously, I couldn't talk about prediction through this book alone (it works very different for other texts), but using CYOA was a great way to introduce the concept and make the concept clear for many students -- and fun as well. And isn't that what we hope for during our lessons?

I know many teachers have used CYOA books before. I remember them when I was in high school. But I don't remember encountering anything that champions these books as a way to model reading strategies, so I am urging fellow Literacy teachers to give it a try and see if it works for them.

Additionally, I don't have any solid evidence of this, but I remember growing up there being this idea that CYOA books were "fake" books. It is too choppy and doesn't develop a sustained, deep plot riped for intellectual consumption bla bla bla. And I also remember CYOA being for students who didn't read much of anything. Students who if you got them to read a word on a page that was a huge success, and the hope that this was a gateway to "real" reading. (Note: if you clicked on the link above you'll notice what you find reflects my view of the views I am describing).

Certainly, a student shouldn't be narrowed into one genre. I wholeheartedly agree that students need exposure to many different types of text and need to develop skills to read a wide variety of text. However, CYOA books are fun for many, and they also resemble our hyperlink culture. Reading online is all about reading brief chunks of text and electing to advance our reading using a series of hyperlinked choices (i.e. places like wikipedia).

Because CYOA resembles online reading, I believe that is one reason why my students liked this book and could readily access it: it is how they (and WE) read nowadays. Furthermore, CYOA can show students how to actively make meaning with a text, and its structure is built for their participation!

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The poet Chris Leja

Chris is one of those students who inspire you to be a better teacher. He is also someone who inspires me to be a better poet!

One of the coolest things about my time at Polaris was watching the students get excited about poetry and, especially, poetry slams. We started a poetry club and did everything from read to each other to word ticket poetry to slams. Some of the greatest times I've ever had, and its no hyperbole, were working with these students and watching them thrive as poetry.

When I have the technology (seriously, a stupid little cord) I will post video of some Polaris students slamming last year.

Chris won the slam with the poem below, and in some lame twist of fate I wasn't there but was thinking about going! I knew he was in Fort Collins (he now is in college in Washington and was in town for winter break) but I didn't know he'd be there.

Luckily, I was still able to read it and it simply floors me! And I'm sure it will floor you as well!

by chris leja

Charlie was a soldier.
A rebel without a cause,
A poet without a pause
And one of the greatest tragedies I've ever encountered in my life,
The only man I've ever met who could make dying beautiful.
See, when Charlie got home from Iraq,
He borrowed, stole, Drank and smoked
Just to keep breathing. Because the weight of the world was a noose around his neck,
A boulder on his chest, crushing every breath,
And every step was a battlefield,
Between his dreams and his tragedy.
But Charlie was a soldier,
Depressed and isolated,
And every day he seemed to grow a little colder,
A little bolder,
And in his gaze you could see he was stressin' for aggression,
See, Charlie started to get this look on his face,
Like maybe God had overlooked him when he was handing down his graces,
So Charlie wanted a fight.
He fought with the trees,
And all of his dreams,
Tore them to shreds,
Left them for dead sunk in puddles of his blood.
But Charlie was a soldier,
And every day was a warzone.
So Charlie learned to speak with a swagger,
Learned to make every word a weapon.
He held his voice like a box of bullets under his breath,
Until he could only speak in threats.
But he wrote some of the most amazing poems I have ever read,
On the backs of old love letters,
And whenever I'd ask him why,
All he'd say was that "Ink never dies."
But Charlie prayed that in his vices he could find
Some previously unforeseen insight into the mind of God
And with a cigarette between his lips, he finally found it.
So he blew the world a farewell kiss,
And whispered, softly, "Life, you're beautiful. It's not you, it's me.
It's always been me. And I'm so sorry,
That every embrace leaves me feeling tawdry,
Like the world is clean, but I'm filthy.
Don't touch me, please.
I've got the blood of someone hopeful all over me."
So when he slashed his wrists,
He held them up to his lips
In a toast to life.
With that kitchen knife sunk an inch beneath his skin,
He embraced his sins And died with a smile on his lips.
Because Charlie was a soldier,
And with his veins cut like kite strings, he was finally free to fly.

Nobody cried at Charlie's funeral.
It didn't feel right.
Because Charlie was a soldier,
And he wouldn't have cried for us.

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