One of my absolute favorite comprehension strategies is to teach kids to infer. The main reason for this is that I love the books I use for teaching and modeling this strategy. Most of the books I use are Chris Van Allsburg books. He is an absolute genius when it comes to writing books that lead a person to infer. Join me as I share some books for inferencing and how I used them to teach kids to infer.
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What Does It Mean to Infer?
To infer means to take information from the text and come to a conclusion. It is like making a prediction, but an inference is a little less concrete. The inference is never proven true or false like a prediction can be. When making a prediction, a reader usually finds out if they were right or wrong.
For instance, “I predict Wilbur will live at the end of Charlotte’s Web.” We will know the answer to this prediction at the end of the story. “I think it’s a duck because he is in a pond and he is eating with his bill.” This inference from Duck! Rabbit! can’t be proven. It is based on evidence from the story, but there is no way of proving the inference true or false.
How To Teach Kids to Infer
Once you have read a few pages and modeled inferring you give the students the chance to practice the strategy by following along in the story and taking notes about the story. I like to tier the student’s practice before I give them an opportunity to practice the strategy on their own.
When focusing on inferring, you want kids to record clues that will help them infer. Why do they think it’s a duck? What evidence have they found?
Books for Inferring
This is a short story, but really gets kids thinking about whether the object is a duck or a rabbit. Just look at the cover, it could be either! This book really brings out discussions as people become passionate once they decide it’s a duck/rabbit.
Grade appropriate: K-2
I loved using fables in the classroom. And I use them at home too. They are short stories with a big message. Kids really need to follow along to pick up on clues. The discussions that come from fables can be very interesting.
Grade appropriate: 2-4
Chris Van Allsburg
He has several books that are great for teaching inferring. I probably use his books more than any others because they are well written and really get you thinking. I have mentioned my use of his book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for teaching creative writing. Kids use these pictures to write a story based on clues from the picture. Talk about great inferencing!
This is one of my all time favorite stories to read for inferring. Who is this stranger? Where did he come from? What is with all the bizarre things happening around the farm? Kids will come up with some pretty neat inferences based on the clues they gather from this book. It is so interesting to hear them discuss!
Grade appropriate: 3-5
In all honesty I read both The Wretched Stone and The Stranger when I teach inferencing. I introduce with one and another day we practice with the other. Both are such fabulous books that I want to share them. By the second book kids are usually picking up on the right clues and coming to the right conclusion.
In The Wretched Stone, a is full of happy sailors. They sing and tell stories as they sail. Until they find a stone on a mysterious Island. Suddenly the stories and songs stop. Why? What is this stone?
Grade appropriate: 3-5
Teaching Inferencing with Books
Inferencing is one of my favorite strategies to teach. The books are so interesting and I love to hear the conversations they ignite. Kids draw some interesting conclusions based on the clues in the story. And as long as they can back up their guess, I can’t say they are right or wrong. That is what is great about inferencing. It’s based on sound evidence, but it can rarely be disproved.