Anticipation guides are powerful teaching tools that not only improve reading comprehension but keep elementary learners actively engaged in the lesson.

An anticipation guide is a type of graphic organizer used as a pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading activity to assess students’ knowledge of a subject. By design, anticipation guides peak students’ interest in a topic in a highly-engaging way.

This post is going to show you exactly how to use anticipation guides to increase students’ reading comprehension.

You might also be interested in >>> Research-based instructional techniques that boost reading comprehension and writing skills.

Anticipation Guide Directions

Step 1: Choose a Teaching Objective and Related Book.

Your use of an anticipation guide starts with your teaching objective and/or book choice.

What is your topic and what book about that topic will you be reading to your students?

Step 2: Gauge Learners’ Prior Knowledge.

Secondly, think about how much your students already know about the topic.

If they have a ton of prior knowledge about the subject or if they’ve already read the book, an anticipation guide may not be the best pre-reading strategy.

Or maybe they have a good grasp of the subject and/or have read the book, yet you want to challenge them a bit and have them go deeper.

Then yes, an anticipation guide will work well.

Step 3: Create True/False Statements.

Now, think of ten (10) statements -some true and some false – about said topic.

You don’t need exactly 5 and 5 of each; just make sure there’s a mixture. 

The statements should be based on relevant key concepts or actions from the text.

Step 4: Distribute an Anticipation Guide to Each Student.

Now type your statements into a word processing document

Organize the information in a way similar to the anticipation guide sample shown below.

Mix your statements so that there’s no obvious pattern of true/false.

Anticipation Guide Example for Social Studies

how to use an anticipation guide

Using Anticipation Guides as a Pre-Reading Strategy

With your document complete, now it’s time to distribute a copy to each student.

After carefully reviewing the instructions with the class (if this is the first time they’ve done an anticipation guide), read the statements to them, with them, or have them read individually.

In the “BEFORE” column, they’ll mark T for true or F for false for each statement. Their decisions depend on their individual prior knowledge.

You may have to model a few times how this is done.

Make sure to give students time to answer.

This step is so important because it sets the tone and purpose for reading.

NOTE: Some students will be curious to see how their peers are answering the statements, so make a point to reinforce the idea that IT’S OKAY to just guess based on their own schema. Learners will not be penalized for “wrong” answers.

This light anxiety (or curiosity) of wondering if they’re right or wrong is exactly what makes anticipation guides so engaging and perfect for reading comprehension!

Once you begin reading the book, learners will be anxiously waiting to see if they were in fact correct in their assumptions.

Quick Tip: Have students use a permanent marker to answer the “BEFORE” column.

Some students are afraid to be wrong. So they’ll go back and change the “BEFORE” column during the “AFTER” part so that it appears they were correct all along. (Ha Ha!)

Anticipation Guides ~ During Reading

After completing the “BEFORE” section, it’s now time for students to read.

This is the juicy part of anticipation guides because students get to discover which statements are actually true or false, and they love it!

As they find out the facts from the book, they mark each statement in the “AFTER” column with T for true or F for false.

This important step of checking for understanding by confirming or rejecting previous choices is very powerful.

Make a rule that they cannot change any of their answers from the “BEFORE” column.

Their new choices must only be placed in the “AFTER” column.


Because you want them to observe how their schema changed based on the new information learned.

It’s great for them to see that learning growth.

Anticipation Guides ~ Post-Reading

By now, your readers are probably chatting with peers, comparing their “BEFORE” and “AFTER” statements, excitedly seeing which ones they had correct.

At his point, their knowledge of the topic has increased and subsequently so has their understanding of the text.

You’ll even find that a significant number of your kiddos are interested in learning more about the topic!

Now it’s time to stretch their thinking and understanding a bit by extending the activity.  

Using the text and/or background knowledge, students will rewrite each false statement to make it true.

Observing how your readers answered the “BEFORE” and “AFTER” columns in addition to how they rewrote the false sentences will be very valuable. 

That information provides great informal assessment data that you can use as you plan future lessons.

Disadvantage of Anticipation Guides

Though anticipation guides are wonderful for increasing reading comprehension, like any reading strategy or activity, some of your learners will need additional support to make the content more accessible.

In general, how you differentiate for struggling readers and second language learners will depend on their individual needs.

However, below are strategies you can implement ASAP…

  • For both struggling readers and English language learners, work with students one-on-one or in small groups.
  • Additionally, during the “BEFORE” section of the anticipation guide activity, review each sentence to be sure that students understand key vocabulary within each statement.
  • For ESL students with low proficiency in English vocabulary, translate any key concepts or words.
  • If you have a teaching assistant, have him or her work with a small group or one-on-one. For those kids with decoding or fluency issues, she/he can read aloud parts of the anticipation guide graphic organizer and book.
  • Have any students who need more time to process information? Circle only the odd or even numbers of the anticipation guide and have them only respond to those.
  • Before students read the text to discover if they were correct in their “BEFORE” statements, pair weaker readers with stronger readers.

Can I Use Anticipation Guides for Any Book or Teaching Subject?

Anticipation guides work best when you want students to absorb lots of information about a topic such as understanding the key ideas of a nonfiction text.

Don’t limit yourself to just books.

Reader’s theater scripts are great options as are textbooks … think math, science, and social studies readers’ theater scripts and textbooks.

Another great way to use anticipation guides is with videos.

Before watching a BrainPop video or any type of video where you want students to absorb a significant amount of information, use an anticipation guide.

These strategies really do work wonders!

Wrapping Up – Anticipation Guides 101  

Skyrocket your students’ reading comprehension using the power of anticipation guide graphic organizers.

I’m confident your students will greatly benefit.

Happy teaching and learning