Thursday, December 22, 2005

Teaching Inference for TAKS Reading

Students need to be taught HOW to make inferences. They need to realize that inferences are everywhere and that during the reading process an inference can be (and often must be) modified. Ten major inference types cover the great bulk of students' reading needs. They are explained as follows.


LOCATION: "While we roared down the tracks, we could feel the bounce and sway."
AGENT (Occupation or Pastime): "With clippers in one hand and scissors in the other, Chris was ready to begin the task."
TIME: "When the porch light burned out, the darkness was total."
ACTION: "Carol dribbled down the court and then passed the ball to Ann."
INSTRUMENT (Tool or Device): "With a steady hand, she put the buzzing device on the tooth."
CAUSE-EFFECT: "In the morning, we noticed that the trees were uprooted and homes were missing their rooftops."
OBJECT: "The broad wings were swept back in a "v", and each held two powerful engines."
CATEGORY: "The Saab and Volo were in the garage, and the Audi was out front."
PROBLEM-SOLUTION: "The side of his face was swollen, and his tooth ached."
FEELING-ATTITUDE: "While I marched past in the junior high band, my dad cheered and his eyes filled with tears."

Johnson & Johnson, 1986

TEACH. The teacher reads a passage and specifies the type of inference to be made. The teacher models/demonstrates, talks, exemplifies after reading the passage. The teacher identifies and lists WORD CLUES, and in a "think aloud" discussion explains just what the WORD CLUES clarified to help make the inference accurate.
PRACTICE. Students read a passage, individually or in groups. As they read they are to scrutinize/analyze the text to identify WORD CLUES that provide evidence to justify the inference category specified. List the students' WORD CLUES on the board. Encourage full and rich discussion as they talk about why each WORD CLUE made a contribution to the inferences.
APPLY. Identify the types of inference being applied. The students see (read) a passage, one line at a time, and jot down their inferences. After each line is exposed students reject/revise their inferences. At the conclusion students take ownership for this step in the task of inferencing.
EXTEND. Move into students' textbooks. Practice expository passages. Ask questions such as: "What kind of inference category is needed?" "What are the key words that lead to it?" "What is the inference we can make?" Extension takes students to the real world of their own textbooks.
ASSESS. Find out if students can do the inference procedure. "If word clues + experience = inference, what do you do if students don't have the prior knowledge or experiences?" The SEMANTIC MAPPING procedure helps call prior knowledge to the surface, builds bridges necessary to make inferences.