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The Top Ten Inference Tips

Often, an author intentionally leaves parts of the text unclear. This is done to allow the reader to construct meaning as the reader discovers clues in the plot of a story or in the line of argument in an article or essay. At other times, the author suggests (implies) the meaning without directly stating it. In these cases, the author expects the reader to guess or draw conclusions (infer) the meaning from other textual clues. In poetry, the poet uses poetic devices, such as metaphors, to compare unlike objects and require the reader to make those connections. Some authors use allegories, such as C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

Why don’t authors just come out and say what they mean? They have their reasons. A good deal of learning involves the process of how something is learned. When the reader discovers the meaning of the text, the reader understands and appreciates the text and ideas much more than if the meaning is spoon-fed. For example, we all enjoy a good mystery best when the clues of the text interact with our prior knowledge to help us guess “Who done it.” This is the essence of how to inference. Inferencing involves interpreting, making connections, and drawing conclusions.

Although good detective work in searching for textual clues and prior experience  both help readers inference, teachers can also help students become more adept at the process by teaching reading schema. Reading schema involves knowing how a story, essay, poem, or article are structured, the characteristics of each genre, and the writing style and interests of a particular author. For example, knowing that Arthur Conan Doyle likes to use Dr. Watson as Holmes’ foil, knowing that mysteries set up the obvious suspects but use twists and obfuscation to intentionally throw the reader off track, and knowing a bit about British dry wit will help the reader better inference throughout any Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Additionally, having some familiarity with and practice in applying the common categories of thought that authors use to develop their clues can provide an organizational schema to improve inference accuracy and efficiency. Here are ten such common inference categories (with examples) that are frequently used to help readers to inference.

Here are ten inference categories (with examples) that are frequently used to help readers to discover meaning on their own. Re-read the section before and after the unclear section with these categories in mind. Select the category that best fits to help you interpret difficult reading text.

The Top Ten Inference Tips

1. Location: While we roared down the tracks, we could feel the bounce and sway.

What Can Be Inferred? They are riding a train.

2. Agent (Occupation or Hobby): With clippers in one hand and scissors in the other, Chris was ready to begin the task.

What Can Be Inferred? He was giving a haircut.

3. Time: When the porch light burned out, the darkness was total.

What Can Be Inferred? It is late at night.

4. Action: Carol dribbled down the court and then passed the ball to Ann.

What Can Be Inferred? They are playing basketball.

5. Instrument (tool or device): With a steady hand, she put the buzzing device on the tooth.

What Can Be Inferred? The dentist is drilling out a cavity.

6. Cause and Effect: In the morning, we noticed that the trees were uprooted and homes were missing their roof shingles.

What Can Be Inferred? There had been a tornado or hurricane.

7. Object: The broad wings were swept back into a “V” and the two powerful engines roared to life.

What Can Be Inferred? A jet plane is preparing to take off.

8. Groups (kinds or types): The Toyota and Honda were in the garage and the Chevy was out in the front.

What Can Be Inferred? These are all automobiles.

9. Problem-Solution: The side of his face was swollen and his tooth was loose.

What Can Be Inferred? He got hit in the face.

1o. Feeling-Attitude: While I marched past, in the middle school band, my Dad’s eyes were filled with tears.

What Can Be Inferred? The child’s father was proud of his or her involvement in the band.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activitiesphonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Reading Strategies

Teaching Reading Strategies

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