Friday, August 24, 2012

Using Anticipation Guides as a Pre-Reading Activity

Several months back, I posted some activities used with the novel Ender's Game.  One of the activities listed is an "anticipation guide," and I always wanted to follow-up with more details on this particular pre-reading strategy.

I first heard about anticipation guides when I was reading Kylene Beers' excellent Resource When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do, which gives details about what anticipation guides are and the best way to use them.  They work best as a pre-reading activity to help students activate prior knowledge before reading a text, and engage with some themes and issues they will deal with in the reading (which builds anticipation).

To make an anticipation guide, you start with a set of generalizations based on themes found in the reading (you can use fiction or nonfiction).  Before reading the text, students decide whether they agree or disagree with those generalizations.  The class can then discuss their reasonings, read the text, and then revisit the anticipation guide to see whether or not their thinking has changed.

Beers explains that the point is not to change the students' minds, but to encourage them to think deeply about their beliefs.  Good anticipation guide statements should provoke thought and discussion amongst students.  In her example, the students reading a sample guide called the statements "tough" because it was hard to know what contexts in which the statement was agreeable or not.  They responded to a lot of the statements by saying, "It depends."  That's what you want to hear!  It's not about right or wrong answers; it's about students beliefs and their explanations for them.

That's what I like about the activity.  You get students' minds involved and engaged before they even approach the text.  When I looked online for examples of guides to go with stories, I think a lot of people make the mistake of having their generalizations and statements be too cut and dry, not challenging enough to provoke deep thought.  For instance, if you're about to read The Outsiders and one of your statements reads, "Having good friends can help you endure tough situations," how can that be challenged?  Who would disagree with that?  Though it tells you something about a theme in the story, it doesn't really work well in an anticipation guide.  How can your generalizations challenge students' thoughts, preconceptions and expectations in the story?  The answers shouldn't be clear-cut, black-and-white responses.  If yours are, go back and see how you can reword the statement to better build anticipation.  

Beers recommends using words like "always," "never" and other nonnegotiable words in your statements.  Play on students' usual line of thinking.  Examples I wrote:

  • "Murder is never right."  (How would reading To Kill A Mockingbird or Julius Caesar challenge this idea?)
  • "It is never justifiable to break the law."  (Would The Diary of Anne Frank or The Hunger Games add a twist to this idea?)
  • "There is always a better way to solve problems than using violence."  (What about in Ender's Game?)
Again, the concept is not for students to eventually change their mind; each statement should at least make students think, "It depends."  After reading the story, their minds could change or be even more convinced of their original belief, but they've now been able to consider different contexts and viewpoints.

Beers also recommends students analyzing characters post-reading by having them respond to the guide statements from the point of view of different characters.  

You can read more about anticipation guides here and here (which also includes templates and a video).

Here are some good anticipation guides I found online:
The activity also works for different grade levels and subjects.  Check out this video from ReadingRockets.

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