Teaching reading is at times difficult even when everything seems to make sense. For children, especially learning to read, at first is a big challenge. Much of the problem seems to be in helping children understand what they have read. Learning Comprehension about what is being read by the student is an important step.
One of the first steps to that end is learning to draw an inference.
Author Kylene Beers talks about this situation in her book "When Kids Can't Read". She believed at first that if a child could make an inference, if they were able to make an inference of any kind, then much of her problems teaching would be gone.
Much of the problem with achieving comprehension and understanding seems to be that children could not seem to form a basic inference. "It took many years for me to figure out how get around that concept" said Author Beers.
We have to keep in mind that students need to be able to answer the question:
What is it that we are talking about?
Much of the solution seems to be that while some children seem can't make inferences, we make inferences each and every day, and we draw conclusions and infer information based on a lot of different factors. What people appear like, the expression on someone's face, how articles are set up in a room, there are a lot of different things that we can comment on that we infer every day.
So how do we set out to transfer that skill to interacting with written words on a page? Ahh.. There is the challenge that confronts us.
What does it appear like or look like?
Ms. Beers talks about how to use resources to help both teachers and students. She speaks about resources that will assist in teaching these vital skills.
Some of the Inference types that skillful readers utilize:
-Use clues from context to figure out meanings of words unknown to them.
-Be able to identify and recognize pronouns, and their antecedents.
-Use clues to identify personalities, beliefs, motivations and beliefs of characters.
-Use the reading to provide clues and information about the setting or venue.
-Work to try to understand the relationships about one character to another
-Work to try to understand how the author views the word
-Figure out the bias if any that the author has.
-Offer alternate conclusions, and explore the conclusions made in the text.
How Can I adapt, Use, or set this fact apart?
As you demonstrate and model "inferential reading" to your students, try and illustrate things that they see each day. Use events and common things to help explain and achieve comprehension for your student. Try to show similarities to the inferences that students draw each day in their daily activity.
Find an event that happens in your student's lives, and help them to draw conclusions and inferences from it. Then try to help them see how they can do the same to an event or item that they have read.
Perhaps the first time you can do this as a whole class activity, using the computer or a classroom chart. Work through the steps for drawing an inference one by one, as a class as a group. Then, assign some sample events and ask the students to draw inferences individually,
As students accomplish this, then help them transfer this to their reading. Yes, this can be a challenge, but when modeled in a clear concise way it does not need to be necessarily mind-bending. As you work the process with your students, make each step clear and as real to them, using examples as you go.
Make a chart and list the steps as you go, with lots of class participation. Post the Chart when you are done in the classroom as a ready reference.
-Read Aloud Short Passage as a class
Have your students read, and read out loud yourself often. Separate students into small groups, or partners. Encourage students to "Think out loud" and to share what they see in the text as they read.
As you do this, try to zero in on what inferences are present in the text. Ask students to identify the inferences, using their reference list. -
What is the meaning of what the author wrote?
Show and model for students that making inferences is a step-by-step process. Authors do not think their readers will create inferences or have understanding out of the blue.
Demonstrate and model that authors use both implied information, and literal information. Show students that as a reader we will be the ones inferring. And that as authors, either information is actual and literal, or it is implied by what they write.
-Comments and Encouragement For students
As you move forward you can help students by helping encourage and comment on your student's progress. Some of the things that you can share with students to help them are:
"After reading what can you tell me about the character and how they act?"
"What are the pronouns in what you are reading, and what to they mean?"
"When your done reading, tell me why the character acted the way they did?"
"What is the setting, and how would you change it?"
"Why did the series of events happen the way that it did?"
"How did the characters act when (reference a specific area in the reading) and why did they act that way?"
"Write down words you don't know and see if you want figure out the meaning by the words around them?"
"What do you think the Author thought or felt about (Insert the name of a character or a topic in the reading"?
Have students sit and write down answers to specific questions after they read. Use the following as a guide: When? Where? How? Who? What? And perhaps the hardest for some students. Why?
As students progress, gradually make the questions harder.
Using these types of questions will assist your students to THINKING about their reading, and hopefully they will be able to grow to identify and come to their own conclusions, including drawing direct and implied inferences from the reading.