Using “digital” anticipation guides to help students set a personalized purpose for their reading.

by Ryan Kinser

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12


“Digital Anticipation Guides” help students establish a personalized purpose for reading texts. Students often ask about the purpose of a lesson or why they have to study it. Presenting that purpose at the outset of a lesson and connecting that purpose directly to student’s personal interest better motivates their learning.

The way I do this:

–First I create a survey using a Google Form that allows students to answer questions about their interests by agreeing or disagreeing with several specific statements. Based on their responses, I suggest a specific text for them to explore.

–Next, I look at the survey data and create literature circles based on the students’ answers. I group students together with other students with similar interests–or I gather students together who think very differently–to foster interesting dialog. Then I go over the response data with the class so they see the breakdown of how many people agreed or disagreed on a particular topic. This group discussion creates a jumping off point for more extended conversation.

–Finally, at the end of the unit I follow up by having students create their own anticipation guides for the texts they’ve read. This activity reinforces their learning and also allows them to revisit essential critical questions related to their reading.

Working with Anticipation Guides in this way can apply to any lesson in which there’s a core question or an essential objective for learning–this approach isn’t just for novel-reading or language arts. And although Google Forms is user-friendly and takes about 10 minutes to learn, this same approach can be presented on other technology platforms–or even on paper if the technology is not available. When students can access the guide online anytime or anywhere, they can complete it ahead of time so that class time is used more efficiently and productively.



What I did well (in sharing this practice with other teachers)?

As a learner in many conferences and workshops over the course of my career, I’ve come to appreciate when facilitators build time into the experience for exploration and practice. I was pleased with the pace as I shared this practice. I gave clear objectives such as “use digital anticipation guides to set a purpose for learning; I modeled an authentic learner-centered experience that yielded terrific conversations and insights! Participants spoke deeply about the essential questions for each novel and several mentioned they couldn’t wait to read the book they chose. The clarity and planning provided time for individual exploration and practice. It was so exciting to see teachers creating their own anticipation guides and continuing the conversation on Padlet. The a-ha moments such as one teacher’s suggestion of allowing students to switch choices after the conversations and another teacher’s comment that the practice offers powerful differentiation, choice, and assessment for students stood out to me as evidence of the value in sharing this practice.

What I would do more of, better, differently (in sharing this practice again)?

I would smile more! I cringed a bit at the serious look on my face throughout the videos. I love how the clips capture the anticipation guide strategy as teachers learned, and yet I will be sure next time to smile and laugh more. The conversations I heard at each novel station were so insightful that I would either allow one group to speak using a Fishbowl strategy so we could all hear the dialogue. Or perhaps I’d suggest individuals visit each station and read the questions and comments posted from classmates. Finally, I would like to offer example guides from other subject areas or walk teachers through creating one together.

In what ways do I still want to learn and grow in using this practice in my classroom?

I want to continue refining the types of questions I ask to collect formative data. At the end of units, I plan to have students draft questions for future anticipation guides. I might even offer a text-based hook question with a small excerpt for discussion. Book trailers are engaging, but suppose other subject-area teachers are using the anticipation guide for something besides a novel. The questions can complement a current events article, blog, scientific breakthrough, anything to get students reading, discussing, and feeling excited about the upcoming lesson.

About Ryan Kinser

Ryan Kinser is an Instructional Technologist at The Out of Door Academy (ODA) in Sarasota, Florida. He also teaches high school English online at F...

Find out more