New Ideas for an Inferring Unit

This week I have a group of students who are going to move into inferring. Last year, this was one of the best units I taught. I loved watching students make connections between their background knowledge and what they could out of the text. This year, I'm looking to expand what I used.

Why do Student's Need Inferring:

All reading is an active, reflective, problem-solving process. We do not simply read words; we read ideas, thoughts that spring from the relationships of various assertions. The notion of inference equations is particularly powerful in this regard. Readers can use the notion of inference equations to test whether or not the ingredients for a given inferences are indeed present. To show lying, for instance, a text must show that someone made a statement that they knew was incorrect and that they made that assertion with the specific purpose of deception. If they did not know it was wrong at the time, it’s an error, not a lie. If they did not make the statement for the specific purpose of deception, we have a misstatement, not lying.

How Can Inferring Help Writing:

The notion of inference equations is equally useful for writing. Writers must assure that the ingredients of the equation are present and clear, and that the desired relationships are signaled in a clear and effective way. As writers, we must be aware that our readers will interpret our thoughts.

We must strive to make our meaning as clear as possible. We must provide sufficient examples to make our ideas clear, as well as to short-circuit undesired interpretations. We must recognize what evidence is necessary and sufficient for our purpose, and assure that it is included.

And we must choose our terms carefully for accuracy and clarity of meaning, and spell out our exact thoughts in as much detail as possible. We must recognize biases our readers might bring to the text and explain and support our evidence as much as our conclusions. The advice: Buy diapers.

I think I'm going to start out with this video. This video is about synthesizing is closely linked to evaluating. This is a great way to show students how thinking should change as we read...often to a deeper understanding. As older students read more complex plots they will learn to expect the unexpected, inferring meanings and pick up on foreshadowing.

This will make a great opening to the week and help them think outside the box.

From the video, what else do I need to do. Well, I want proficient readers. Proficient readers understand that writers often tell more than they actually say with words. They give you hints or clues that allow you to draw conclusions from information that is implied. Using these clues to “read between the lines” and reach a deeper understanding of the message is called inferring.

Students need to learn how to infer so that they can go below the surface details to see what is actually implied (not stated) within the words of the story. Some meanings are meant to be implied – that is not stated clearly but they are hinted at. When meanings are implied, you have to infer them.

Students make inferences every day without even thinking about it. For example, you can ask children to imagine they are sitting at their desk doing their homework when they hear a loud booming sound and hear pattering against the window. They don’t actually see anything, but they can infer there is a thunderstorm outside. All students recognize the sounds of thunder. They know heavy rain makes a pattering sound. And they know that any time the two go together there is almost a thunderstorm going on.
Inferring with context clues

One way students can infer a word meaning is from context clues within the text. Students have to learn how to work out meanings from these clues. There’s several ways to do this.They can simply make an educated guess using the hints given before the unknown word and the sentences that follow the word. Asking questions is one way to unravel these clues.

I have some ideas for guided reading:
These questions will be very helpful while we are reading to work through unknown words and what they mean. During the guided reading session, the teacher should have these question stems available when students find a word they don’t know the meaning of.   The teacher pauses the reading and chooses the appropriate question to ask.
“What do you think the word means considering (a certain action or event) has happened?
“How do you know that the word means (insert definition)?”
“What part of the text helps you make this inference?”
“Where can you find other clues to help you understand?”
“If you substitute what you think is a similar word, would the sentence still make sense?”

My goals for my students include:

  • Draw conclusions about their reading by connecting the text with their background knowledge
  • Synthesize new ideas and information
  • Create unique understandings of the text they are reading
  • Make predictions about the text, confirm or disconfirm those predictions based on textual
  • information, and text their developing comprehension of the text as they read
  • Extend their comprehension beyond literal understandings of the printed page
And thinking stems to help my learners:

  • “Even though it isn’t in the picture, I can see the…”
  • “Mmm, I can almost taste the…”
  • “It sent chills down my spine when it said…”
  • “For a minute, I thought I could smell…”
  • “I could hear the…”
  • “I can imagine what it is like to …”
  • “I can picture the…”
These are going to be great additions to my inferring unit this week. Have a great week.


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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