In my 3rd grade reading group, we are revisiting Inferencing and what that looks and sounds like with Question/Answer Relationships. As we gear up for the EOG's, I want to prepare my students for how we must make inferences when drawing conclusions about answers to multiple choice questions. I began by explaining to my group that inferencing is really about not ever really knowing what the author intended for us to get from the text, but drawing our conclusions and interpretations based on both, information from the text and information from our head.
When looking at a piece of art, whether contemporary or a famous piece of artwork from history, we can make a prediction about what we think the artist meant for it to mean, however, because we can never check our prediction to know for sure what the artist meant for it to mean, it is an inference. We can only interpret what we think the artist's message was, as is often the case with author's and their stories. Inferences not only use "In the Text" information, but they also use "In My Head" information, that go unchecked or unconfirmed, predictions can be checked and confirmed for certainty.
So, with the operational definition and analogy clear in our mind, we began to work on an article about the Amazon River. Read Works is a fantastic free source of lessons for 20 Comprehension Concepts, separated and graduated by grade level. Drawing Conclusions is the closest skill for inferencing that the site has.
So, using the non-fiction passage and question set for The Mighty Amazon River, we began to work our way through each question and answer and filling in the missing information on the Making Inferences Sheet.
I am also including a blank Making Inferences template to use with any passage and question set.
The key to guiding students through this activity is questioning and digging deeper with the questions. For example, the first question is "The source of the river was a mystery because...." the correct answer choice is "The source was hard to get to." The key piece of understanding when locating correct answers when inferencing is knowing understanding that not only will the wrong answers not be stated in the text, the correct answer will be explicitly stated in the text either. Therefore, the clues around the correct answer will have to be explained by the students. So, the line of questioning that would occur is:
"Why was the source hard to get to?"
"What are clues that indicate the source was hard to get to?"
What information in the text leads us to believe the source was hard to get to?"
At this points, students will begin to locate information "in the text" like "High on Nevado Mismo" and "18,363 feet" and "in Peru" and "a team of 22 people"....When students produce this information from the text, like "high on a mountain" our next line of questioning should be, "....and what does that mean?" When they started to answer with "that means you need hiking experience and special equipment"...you should immediately slap a label on their "inferences" that they are making. It was like light bulbs going off and it was very cool.