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Children can often figure out what is going to happen in a story based on experience or prior knowledge. By using authors’ clues in a text to form logical conclusions, young readers can better understand what they are reading. This is called inference. The more you can help children infer when reading, the better they will comprehend.
Inference is an easy thing to practice and can be implemented with very early readers. Here are examples of how to practice inference with kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade students. Start by giving a short series of clues, then ask questions.
For a kindergarten student:
• Mom said to Megan, “Today we’re going to a special place where we’ll see wild animals. We have to stay behind protective cages and we can’t feed the animals.” Ask, “Where do you think Mom and Megan are going?”
For a 1st grade student:
• A big green tractor was in the field. The class saw pigs, sheep, and chickens. They saw a big red barn. They saw cows and heard them moo. Big orange pumpkins sat by bales of hay. Ask, “Where did the class go on their field trip?” “How do you know?”
For a 2nd grade student:
• At recess Jack, a new student in the class, was standing by the wall watching the kids play soccer. Michael left the game and went over to ask Jack to play. After recess Michael let Sarah borrow his eraser. In the bus line, Michael helped a kindergarten girl tie her sneaker. As soon as he got home, Michael fed his dog. Ask, “What kind of boy is Michael?” Give examples of why you feel this way.
Inference can be used to help understand setting, character traits, and the main idea of stories. Children should be constantly inferring while they are reading to build their comprehension. Clear comprehension is the end goal of all reading!