By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
Readers make inferences when decoding as they encounter new words, and writers use inference skills as they write and read their words. The two can be thought of as part of the foundation of comprehension. Keep reading to find out which signs you should look out for while first-graders draw conclusions and demonstrate comprehension.
Making inferences is the strategy of realizing that there is missing information needed and understanding that reading between the lines is necessary. If students are missing information that helps them understand a text they're reading, they will have questions about what is meant in the text.
They may not articulate any questions, but they will likely have a feeling that more information is needed to answer the questions. However, prior knowledge that can leverage to make connections may not be as widely available for some kids as it may be for others.
To help students infer to draw conclusions, you can encourage them to become a literacy detective that puts clues together as they search for the best answer to the questions being asked. The clues may be in illustrations, repeated words, prior knowledge, dialogue between characters, or the feelings and actions of the characters.
When I used the narrative text Dragon's Friend by Joy Cowley with a student who was reading around a 90% accuracy, I looked for the following signs to make sure he was inferring and drawing conclusions as he was reading:
- After reading through page 4, the child showed he was interpreting the feelings of the characters: “I thought when I first started reading that the children would probably be scared, but the faces of the children on this page do not show fear."
- After reading through page 7, the child asked questions that showed he was inferring: "How can the children promise to find another dragon? What else could be his friend?"
- After turning to page 8, the child showed he was using the illustration for support and creating questions for himself: "Now I see! The friend will be a paper dragon! How can a paper dragon be a friend to a real dragon?"
- After reading through page 13, the child showed he was making predictions: "The dragon is crying again because he does not want a paper friend. Maybe the promise the children made won't come true."
- After reading pages 14 and 15, the child was encouraged to reread after seeing a bold word in the text: "Why are the children and dragon smiling? I see that the word you is big, so I will read the sentence like the dragon would say it."
- After page 16 is read, the child smiled and drew a conclusion: "They are all hugging, so the dragon has friends!"
While modeling and guided practice may need to be scaffolded for some kids, the ability to infer meaning is essential for all young readers. Eventually, they will be able to conclude independently. If you have a student reading with 96% accuracy who is able to decode when coming to a new word, the level G fiction book for kids described above is appropriate for a first-time read to practice inferring.
If you're looking for tips to help striving readers in upper-elementary grades with a level T nonfiction book for kids, you can read Help Striving Readers Make Inferences. If you'd like more tips on using a wordless book to help beginning readers make inferences, you can read Steps to Help Students Make Inferences, Part 1. To find ideas on using an informational text to prompt inferring, you can read Steps to Help Students Make Inferences, Part 3.
As always, be sure to visit our blog soon for more tips that will help students in your classroom!
Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.