Inference lesson plans can teach students how to read between the lines. A skilled reader takes an active role in interpreting a text, and inferencing skills serve an important role in this type of activity.
What Is Inference?
Stories are not always straightforward, and sometimes it is necessary to make inferences to extract meaning from a text. The reader uses his or her knowledge and applies it to the text to make an inference.
At its most basic level, inference is the ability to connect a pronoun with a previously mentioned person or object. At its most complex, it involves using personal background knowledge to understand subtle, implicit messages that are weaved into the material. The subject can be part of literature unit studies.
Choosing Inference Lesson Plans
Inference lesson plans prepare students to recognize how they interact with the stories they read. Inferencing is a critical reading skill that plays an important role in comprehension. The ability to draw inferences is a key factor in the student's reading level. If a student is unable to infer well, he or she is likely to have poor comprehension.
As a homeschooling parent, how do you determine which inference lesson plans to use for maximum results? Things to consider when choosing lesson plans that teach inferencing skills are:
- Reading level: Texts should be a little challenging, and definitely not too easy. See Leveling Books for guidance.
- Background knowledge: The more the child knows about the subject, the more inferences are likely to develop.
- Lesson plan objectives: Do you want to develop inferencing skills, or do you want the student to become conscious of how he or she makes inferences?
According to Effective Teaching of Inference Skills for Reading Literature Review, in order for students to be good at referencing, they need to:
- Be active readers
- Want to understand the text
- Have a good vocabulary
- Monitor comprehension
- Repair misunderstandings
- Use working memory
- Have solid background knowledge
Lesson Plans for Developing Inference Skills
Lessons that homeschooling parents can use include printable materials, teacher lesson plans and resources specific to homeschooling families.
Homeschool World features a column that offers ideas for teaching inference. The column provides teaching strategies applicable to literature that has explicit or implicit relationships. You can apply ideas in this article to history lessons, stories and everyday reading activities, including advertisements and media.
- Using Think-Alouds to Improve Reading Comprehension models a "think aloud" method for applying background knowledge to a text. The lesson encourages children to make predictions and to recognize that reading has a purpose.
- Scholastic has a Differentiated Learning Pack called Making Inferences that contains worksheets and test preparation activities that can apply to different stories. You can use the materials in a lesson plan that you create yourself. Some materials are free, but others require a subscription for download.
- TeacherVision has a lesson plan for levels kindergarten to third grade. The plan uses the story, Animals Should Definitely not Wear Clothing, but you can adapt the lesson for other stories as well. The site offers many free resources, but a subscription is necessary for full access to all of the resources available on the site.
- Oxford University Press has a short exercise for older students, Between the Lines, that explores a micro story by Richard Brautigan. The brevity of the story is great because students can focus on practicing making inferences with focus.
Teaching the Process
Modeling is among the most effective ways you can help your child understand inferences:
- Share your thoughts as you read the text aloud.
- Show how you draw conclusions.
- Demonstrate how you monitor your own comprehension.
- Ask "who, what, where, when and why."
Making inferences typically preexists reading, and children develop skills as soon as the begin to learn how to read. However, metacognitive (thinking about the thinking process) skills may not be developed well enough for young children to understand how they make inferences. Children can still learn how to make inferences without understanding how the process works, just as they can work a computer without understanding how a computer works.
You can start teaching your child how to make inferences while doing pre-reading exercises. Simply asking, "What do you think happens next?" is enough to get the process rolling.