Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Help Striving Readers Make Inferences

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

In order for striving readers to improve reading fluency, you'll need to help them practice inference skills. In today's blog post, I'll explain how you can use questions that encourage kids to make inferences about the world of fashion with fictional characters and fascinating nonfiction content.

The Importance of Reteaching and Scaffolding Literacy Strategies

To help striving readers achieve reading standards, you may need to reteach some strategies as students make progress with higher levels of independent reading. Writing standards require students to collect information as they read, discuss, and write. This means student writing needs to be done in short and long periods of time so that they can demonstrate their understanding of new vocabulary and the ability to write a paragraph based on information gained as they read.

To help kids with oral language development through speaking and listening, you can ask purposeful questions that prompt kids to participate in collaborative discussions and demonstrate a willingness to pose their own questions and reread. This is helpful for encouraging students to talk about what they're reading and write while using evidence from the text.

Behind the Scenes: Fashion is a guided reading leveled book about a topic that is sure to catch the attention of striving readers in upper-elementary and middle school grades. This is because the way they present themselves to others is important to them. The book also includes nonfiction text features and narrative text content that the students use to make real-world connections as they practice reading comprehension, improve vocabulary, and foster a love of reading.

Book Introduction

  • Give students a copy of the level T chapter book, and invite students to write the title of Behind the Scenes: Fashion in their journals.
  • Turn to the table of contents and ask, Can you think of things you already know about what's listed in the table of contents? If so, you have prior knowledge about what's inside this book!
  • Have students make a list of background knowledge statements in their journals.
  • Encourage them to write a few questions based on what they don't know but would like to know after taking a look at the table of contents.
  • Facilitate a discussion among kids so that they can share their curiosity with their peers.

Questions to Help Kids with Making Inferences

  • Page 4: This is a good page to engage kids in a conversation about why people dress the way they do. You can ask the following questions in a discussion or as a prompt for writing: Why do you think fashion is a huge business? How is a computer or a construction business different from a fashion business? Is the way you dress differently from others in the class? Why do you think this is?
  • Page 6: The word line is a great example of a multiple-meaning word that kids can work to understand in the text. You can have students find the meaning of catwalk in the glossary and then ask, How is the line seen on a catwalk different from a line of clothing? Why do you think fashion trends are important? How do you think lines of clothes are made in different places around the world?
  • Pages 7–9: As students read these pages, they can make more inferences about trends when you ask the following: What does it mean for clothes to sell out? Why do you think this happens? How do you think advertisement campaigns help with selling clothes?

Using Illustrations and Key Details in a Narrative Text

Not only is Behind the Scenes: Fashion an informational text, this a leveled book within the Download Series that includes portions of narrative text. The narrative content includes illustrations so that kids can determine characters' emotions that are conveyed in the dialogue. Here are some questions that you can ask to improve reading fluency and identifying key details as kids read pages 10 and 11:

  • Why do you think Kim doesn't answer Jay?
  • What do Tom's words tell us about how he feels about what they have seen?
  • Why do you think Jay goes on about how people look?
  • Does Kim agree?
  • What does Kay mean when she asks, “Do you want a hat like his?”
  • Why does Kim call her friend the coolest person she knows?

Understanding What Is Cause and Effect

After students read about hip hop brands in urban style, you can reintroduce Lara from the first part of the narrative content before they begin reading pages 18 and 19. This part of the chapter book is great for helping kids understand cause and effect.

Have students create two columns in their journals. One should be labeled causes and the other should be labeled effects . Help students identify the effect of each event that takes place in the second part of the fictional content within Behind the Scenes: Fashion . Some examples include:

 Cause Effect
Kim wants her friends to meet Lara.

She takes them to Lara's store
called Retro Rocks. 

Lara makes unusual jewelry.

Jay is surprised that people
wear something that came from
the imagination and junk. 

Tom and Kim love the Retro Rocks store. Lara gives Tom and Kim their own
pieces of jewelry, and she tells
them to use their imagination on
how to wear it. 

There are many more ways that you can use graphic organizers and student journals to help striving readers with reading fluency, comprehension, and writing. After they finish reading this book from the Download Series , you can incorporate the use of a written survey to see if your students were as engaged as you hoped in the reading practice.

Be sure to visit our blog soon for more tips to 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 .