Inferencing has always been a challenge for me and for my students. This year it has particuarly challenging due to the make up of my class. I have very diverse levels in my class and am having to find ways to meet the needs of these students on many different levels. Believe it or not, I think in the end it has helped me think more deeply about each lesson I teach, and how to intervene when the students do not get it. I digress...Inferencing is a challenge no matter who you are or the students you have due to the fact that it is not stated right in the story and the children have to actually think through the "why" something is happening.
As we started inferencing this year...my kids were all over the place. Part due to the concept being new to them; part due to lack of connection. I did not know this at the time though.
I found this great anchor chart a few weeks ago...and printed it for my kids to put in their reader's notebook...and the real teaching began!
Of course, I had to tie inferencing back into their schema so we began to talk--just talk about personal experiences and how those help us answer questions. The kids responses were amazing. The children may not have that many personal experiences...but they have enough to make connections.
Once we talked about how our schema helps us infer...we had to talk about text evidence. In 3rd grade we really stress the importance of going back in the story to find text evidence (proof) of their answer. The common misconception is inferring has no text evidence...well you can see why I like the anchor chart I posted above. There is always text evidence with inferring...it may not be directly stated but there are clues to lead you to the correct answer. Finding the clues is the key!
On to the final piece of our inferencing puzzle! Our 3rd grade team has been focusing less on multiple choice answers this year, and more about getting the kids to think through their answers and WRITE!! We have been getting the students to do what we call "I know" statements. The students have a question (that would typically be a multiple choice question) but instead of ABCD...they have to write the following after answering the question:
I know this because the text says...
I also know this because when I...
We have the students find the text to support their answer and then they have to make a personal connection to their answer. (Meaning, many times we answer a question because of a certain experience we've had...we can relate to a character because we have also felt that way...we can infer because we know we would do that same thing if we were that character...etc.) Here is an example of the template the students have. We are doing this activity this week on Wednesday...it is inferencing for non-fiction! (Obviously it has a story that goes along with it.)
These "I know" statements work with almost any skill but they are amazing for inferencing! Since inferencing does not give you the text evidence directly...the students are forced to think more about personal experiences and they way the author worded the story. Having the students write down their text evidence (or clues) and their personal connection leads to an almost full-proof solution to inferencing; besides it actually makes the kids think and write instead of just marking an answer.
There are great ways to modify or do Tier I interventions for inferring. On the "I know" statements...I give them an answer to choose from (smiliar to a multiple choice answer) but then they have to tell me why by providing text evidence and a personal connection. I believe this helps the students focus more on the thinking of "why" rather than "what is the right answer..." with any hope, you can eventually remove this option and the students that are struggling will be able to do the complete "I know" statement. I am still doing this intervention in my room...and will continue for a while I am sure, but at least they are getting the thought process in...
I also bought this set of inferencing task cards that are on a lower level. I needed these desperately for my class this year...they have done wonders! I only use them for small group instruction, not for an actual assignment since they are not on grade level, but they do help with getting the kids thinking...we always tie back to their personal connections! The kids love these!
Another way to do modifications or Tier I interventions for inferring is to have the students practice looking at pictures and inferring from the pictures what is happening. We obviously want more reading and writing going on...but this is great for just focusing on thinking...and observing.
I also put this graphic organizer in stations...it is very simliar to the "I know" statement but does not have a specific question on it. The students can make their own inferences from a story they read during stations. I will usually pick a character or certain section of the story and then let them make their own inference. I would reserve this for the kids that are not struggling...or peer partner with this graphic organizer. If the students are struggling forming their own thoughts on inferencing...they will struggle with this; otherwise it is great for your group that doesn't need as much help.
I believe the bottom line to teaching this difficult skill is to remember these are children. Hounding on them to find the clues in the story isn't the only way. Dive into their personal experiences and the connections they can make. Make the kids think, and push them to connect...it will help!