There are so many skills that go into learning to read, but they all point to one ultimate goal: comprehension. The good news is, a student does not have to be a fluent reader in order to start learning good comprehension strategies. The even better news is that there is a huge body of research on the best practices for teaching reading comprehension, including this blog’s topic: teaching inferencing.
This is the fourth entry in our Comprehension Series.
Check out our second post on predicting here.
What is Inferencing in Reading Comprehension?
Inferencing is the ability to take two or more pieces of information and then arrive at a new piece of information that is not directly given. We use inferencing almost non-stop in our daily lives. For example, when you read the sentence, “Joe wouldn’t give Mark the ball, so he cried,” you must first infer that “he” can refer either to Joe or Mark because both or male. But you then infer this particular “he” is referring to Mark, not Joe. And you probably inferred that without even trying.
Inferences are usually much more complex than the example above. There are actually six different types of inferencing students need when reading any text! They require a student to be able to access and connect many different kinds of knowledge with the text as they are reading. Without strong inferencing skills, a reader can’t successfully comprehend a text. Being able to understand character motivation, the moral of the story, and the theme are all reading comprehension skills that require high-level inferencing.
Because inferencing is a skill that develops over a lifetime, you can use games and activities to strengthen a child’s inferencing skills before they even start reading!
Which Activities and Games will Help Improve Inferencing Skills?
Chances are, you’ve played this classic game. If you aren’t familiar with the game, or haven’t played it in a while, here’s the gist:
Think of something specific and tell your student whether it is a person, place or thing.
Give your student as many as 20 chances to ask yes/no questions to figure out what you’ve got in mind.
Encourage your student to ask meaningful questions rather than guessing something right off the bat. Here’s an example:
“Is what you are thinking of bigger than a book?” This will be more helpful than simply guessing the answer at random with questions such as “Is it a pencil?” or “Is it my chair?”
Switch roles. Now it’s your students turn to think of a person, place or thing and your turn to ask yes/no questions.
Guess My Word
Inferencing during reading requires good word knowledge, so playing a guessing game that focuses both on spelling on vocabulary helps build a child’s ability to infer quickly.
This game is kind of the opposite of 20 Questions. One person thinks of a word and gives a hint. Then everyone else gets to guess. If no one guesses after the first hint, then the person who thought of the word gives another clue, and the guesser tries again.
- Teacher thinks of a 5 letter word. (ex: dunks)
- Teacher tells the student the first letter of the word.
- Student makes guesses at the word and finds out if letters are correct and in the correct place, correct but in the wrong place, or not correct at all. Student gets 5 changes to guess the word.
Teacher – “My 5 letter word starts with D.”
Student – “Is it drive?”
Teacher – “No, it is not drive. There are no correct letters.”
Student – “Is it donut?”
Teacher – “It is not donut. The N is correct and in the right place. The U is correct but in the wrong place.”
Student – “Is it dunks?”
Teacher – “Yes! That is it. The word is dunks!”
This game is easier if you use pen and paper to keep a record. You can start with 3 letter words, then progress to more letters as the student feels comfortable.
You and your student can take turns thinking of the word, and this game can go on for a while. It’s actually great for road trips, waiting in an office or restaurant, etc. It requires the players to put together multiple pieces of information over a period of time, which is very similar to what happens when reading.
Inferencing doesn’t just occur through words, even in books! Charades is a classic game, and is a great multisensory way to give children a chance to learn while moving.
- Write vocabulary words on individual cards.
- Have the student pick a word and have them act it out while you guess the word. Just remember: no talking or sounds!
- Take turns
How Can I Teach Inferencing During Reading?
You can start encouraging inferencing during reading before your child knows even one letter. Any book with illustrations is going to provide information through pictures that your child will have to use inferencing skills to interpret.
When looking at pictures, help your student go beyond the obvious. If you come across a picture of a baby crying, ask the student what they see. Then ask, “Why do you think the baby is crying?” There may or may not be more clues in the picture to help, but some inferred reasons could be that the baby is tired or hungry. Then ask your student, “What made you think that?”
You may have noticed that both of the questions in the example were “W” questions. Who, what, when, where, and why are great ways to start your inference questions when reading with your student. When reading a book together with a student, stop at brief intervals to ask inferencing questions like:
How do you think the main character is feeling right now?
Why do you think the character just did that?
What time of day/year is this taking place?
Great Books for Inferencing Practice
For teaching inferencing during read-aloud time, try out these books! You may already have one in you home or classroom library:
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Teaching Inferencing Is Just One Part of Comprehension Instruction
Inferencing is a critical skill in reading comprehension. However, any fluent reader knows that comprehension requires being able to put together numerous reading comprehension skills at the same time. That’s why we’ve chosen to create a four-part blog series and a webinar on how to teach some of the most important comprehension skills. Check out our first-ever webinar below!
Reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, so practicing these skills when you read to your student, when your student reads to you, and in everyday situations will pay off tremendously in your their critical thinking and reading abilities. Hopefully, you’ve found these teaching tips, fun games, reading activities have given you some practical, simple and effective ideas to help you help your student strengthen their comprehension abilities as they work to develop their other reading skills.
If you’d like some more formal guidance in helping your student with reading comprehension, PRIDE Reading Program offers a Reading Comprehension Workbook! It’s designed for students in the Purple or Blue books who could use extra support with sequencing, predicting, visualizing, and inferencing. It’s also a great option for students who are on grade level with reading, but seem to have trouble remembering or discussing what they just read.
Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.
PRIDE Reading Program is a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing, and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers, and homeschoolers of struggling readers. The PRIDE curriculum uses research-based best practices to work for students of all ages and various learning modalities, and works for students with numerous learning differences and employs differentiated teaching practices. To learn more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com