I work most often with teachers and administrators in my role as Curriculum Ed Tech Facilitator in my school division. Over the years, I have come to recognize that a majority of students struggle with inferencing. They can most easily gather evidence and observations, but when it comes to applying these pieces of information to draw conclusions, students are at a loss as to how to achieve this.
These skills are needed for all sorts of school activities and learning, in all subject areas. Inferential thinking is a complex skill that will develop over time and with experience and teachers need to explicitly teach this to students throughout the school year.
There are many resources that can support teachers, below are a few examples as well as more resources to allow both teacher and students to engage in various inferencing activities.
For me, information comes in many forms – think about text (articles, newspapers, textbooks, poetry…), but also audio (lyrics, transcripts), video, and imagery. One such example of how powerful images and symbols are is found in this VIDEO. Teachers should use enticing images to build student’s background knowledge and even to replace text!! Watch the video – what do you think about these images and symbols? Are they not powerful? Think about how you can add and/or replace text with images to enhance the learning environment. Images can be found in a variety of places. For Alberta Teachers, the LearnAlberta website has many curricular-based images, just use the Search and Format features. For everyone, check out 2Learn.ca’s image gallery (make sure to click open the index), Creative Commons Search, use Discovery Education Canada (if your school division subscribes to it) and even Google (with proper copyright criteria).
Another resource (Explain the Image) that I like to share is one that was created by The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) where the template can be used at any grade level (just adjust the amount of text and add visuals for your younger students). It is a great one to use throughout the year and is easily scaffolded from a whole class activity, to small groups filling in specific rows, to small groups filling in the whole template to even individual work. Try it yourself! Click on the IMAGE and then have the QUESTIONS document open at the same time. (Make a copy so you can type in your info online). Input the Evidence/Observations column first and then add your Inferences next. Finally, summarize your thoughts. I’ve seen this used effectively with any text, audio, video and images with a variety of grade levels. The discussion between students about the artefact are SO amazing.
As a trainer for the Stepping Out Literacy Program, I also like to share this template – It Says, I Say, And So. In this example, I am only showing one row of text, but as a teacher, you may be looking at a longer text that would require several other rows to be filled in. Teachers would enter specific portions of text that they want their students to tackle. Once again, scaffold how students learn to use this template.
For those of you who live in the GAFE environment with their students, make sure to take advantage of:
- GDoc > Tools > Research
- GSlide > Tools > Research
These tools allow students to work within the Google environment with a separate pane right where they are working. And if they find some great information but are unable to tackle it as easily, do show them how to use text to speech (like chrome extensions, VoiceNote, Read&Write Google, or even Announcify). The citation pieces that come with this are fantastic. (Show students how to read the links to understand where the online information has come from.) As well, I also introduce, as young as grade three, GDoc – Add-ons > like Speech recognition (speech to text), SpellRight (proper spelling), Mindmeister (mind mapping).
If students are unable to write well (when they hold a pencil or pen it seems to drain all their thoughts and they are unable to write anything) or unable to type but can certainly speak out to demonstrate their knowledge, try out an image + audio iOS app/website for Fotobabble.
- Inference from Reading Rockets – why, how, lessons
- Inference lesson resources from ReadWriteThink
- Inferencing Activities by Josh and Mark
- Inferencing Mini Lessons by Mandy Holland
- ReadWorks for comprehension and inferring lessons.