Monday, October 25, 2010

Making inferences: Text-based and reader-based

On October 26, I'll be presenting at KSRA--"Making Inferences, Making Meaning." We'll look at lots of fun ways to help kids make inferences.

The easiest kind of inference is the text-based inference--an inference that depends on a reader's knowledge of text. Most readers make these kinds of inferences without even thinking about it. However, some kids have trouble with these inferences, which include resolving pronouns, figuring out who is speaking in dialogue, and recognizing characters called by multiple names. (More on these inferences can be found in The Forest and the Trees.)

Reader-based inferences, on the other hand, depend on a reader's world knowledge. These kinds of inferences are often more difficult for students. Sometimes, they fail to notice the subtle hints that authors leave. Helping students to understand that details are important can be a difficult task! Here are some activities that you can use to help students make inferences about characters:

 But the hardest part about helping kids to make inferences is getting them to animate the process. That is, you can have a reader who can find the text clues, and has the background knowledge, but doesn't make the inferences. I think that this is because inferences depend on a reader's curiosity. If a reader has no questions, or is not engaged with a text, then that reader will not have a reason to make inferences. So, if you have students who are not making inferences, a first step may be to work on questioning strategies that get them more involved in the text.

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