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Section 3 Inferential/Interpretive Response: thinking beyond the text

Inferring...36 Infer word meaning......38 Questioning...40 Use text features to gain additional information.42 Draws conclusions / makes comparisons.43

Inferring
Although this category of comprehension skills is listed as thinking beyond the text in agreement with the wording of Fountas and Pinnell, it is also described in the New Brunswick Reading and Writing Achievement Standards as, reading between the lines. Readers understand the true meaning of texts when they can guess ideas which are hinted at by the writer. Pictures are also used to give important clues and the readers success is dependent upon his ability to blend clues by using background knowledge. For example, an author may discuss a boy digging worms and show him walking towards a river, but without some prior exposure, a reader may not be able to infer that the boy is going fishing. Inference is not just guessing; it is selecting and synthesising information into an educated guess. The Standards require that students in kindergarten begin by inferring about characters from general information and progress, by grade three, into making assumptions about characters and events from finer textual details.
Inferential/Interpretive students connect ideas within the text, demonstrating an ability to identify and understand messages that are implied, but not explicitly stated. (K standard p. 3)

This is an easy strategy to question and assess, but a difficult one to teach. Students need to see many examples and hear their teacher model the skill by thinking aloud. So, if he has been digging worms, he must be going fishing. Yes, there is a river in that picture. That is another clue about fishing. I must be right. Key thoughts for the students to work with are, What can I figure out, even if the author isnt saying it in words? Is the author showing me something without telling it to me?
The following table shows the progression of this skill (inference) required in the NB Reading and Writing Achievement Standards at the end of these instruction periods.

Entry K Grade 1 Grade 2

make simple inferences about a main character (his/her actions or


feelings), giving general information in their rationale

make simple inferences about a character (his/her actions or feelings), using


concrete examples from the text; may require verbal prompts

make simple inferences about a character (his/her actions or feelings) and


story events, providing some general supporting details

Grade 3

make straight-forward inferences about a character (his/her actions, feelings or


personality) and story events, referring to obvious textual details

Beanie Babies
Iggy the Inferring Iguana is the Beanie Baby which reminds students to infer while they read. The Iggy the Inferring Iguana poster explains inferring as thinking about predictions, drawing conclusions, and reflecting. These are big words and abstract concepts for most children who are learning to read. Teachers using this poster will have to give many examples of what each of these concepts mean. This explanation of inferring is not exactly reflective of the inferring called for in the standards. NB Standards call for inferring particularly in reference to characters. This Beanie Babys presentation is much broader, calling for general assumptions. As with many of the Beanie Babies featured, this posters illustration speaks to children while its words speak more to the teacher. A similar poster with an inferential thinking quote or key words from the Standards may be more appropriate. Although the iguana may seem like an obscure animal, it was very popular in the nineties when Beanie Babies were being created. They are still available on-line at very reasonable prices.
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The CAF Menu


CAF very simply states inference as, infer and support with evidence. The conveniently brief Ready Reference Form explains the secret to inference success as, using everything they already know and clues from the text, illustrations, and captions to figure out or guess what is happening. (162) Boushey and Moser have condensed a good deal of critical information into these very readable reference forms. It would be simple for teachers to use these for regular support while learning to teach the strategies thoroughly. The Parent Pipeline is also concise and readable; unfortunately, this has to be copied from the membership web site and are, therefore, less likely to be used. The inference game mentioned in the Ready Reference Form is explained within The CAF Book (99-100). It is a simple guessing game which trains childrens minds to infer orally before transferring the skill to text. In many programs, such gems go unnoticed or are lost in fine print. CAF includes a thorough index so that these items may be easily found. Other supportive items are easily searched within the website if a membership has been purchased.

Dillers Strategy Continuum

Debbie Dillers book on small group reading instruction offers the following suggestion for an inference lesson. Teach students to think by modeling and expecting that they can and will infer. Build on their background knowledge and insist that they use the text as well. Help kids connect what they know to what text says, and they can begin to infer. (176) Diller insists that students should be instructed in comprehension, even before they learn to decode, through the discussion of read alouds (37). This is not especially clear in her well known reading level bands which do not mention inference specifically until level F. One must look closer and employ the broader meaning of inference to see her more thorough references. Diller mentions the word inference in this table only 4 times. The other points listed do not use the word inference because they are elements of inferring, such as predicting and understanding characters. This progression of skills provides a good framework for the delivery of priorities mentioned in the NB standards above. It is also useful because it progresses gradually and leads readers to develop inferential thinking which is essential for her later requirement of critical thinking. Teaching foci from Dillers table, Reading Levels and What to Focus on in Lessons (171-174) D - Uses pictures and words to predict and check meaning E - Makes predictions and checks on them F- Makes and checks predictions - Needs to infer at times G, H Deeper understanding of characters J, K - Infers, predicts and analyzes characters L - Deeper understanding of multiple characters M - Understands subtlety of plot and humour - Infers, reads critically, makes more connections - Deeper understanding of multiple characters N, O, P - Infers, reads critically, makes deeper connections

Inferred Word Meaning


Becoming skilled at inference is very useful in building vocabulary. Clues from a books pictures, main topic and immediate context can help a reader to make a close guess at what a new word might mean. This is a complex skill for kindergarten, but begins there as students are encouraged to use words from books in personal context (8). The following table shows the progression of this skill required in the NB Reading and Writing Achievement Standards at the end of these instruction periods.

Entry K Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3

use some language from texts in personal context (e.g., join in chants,
rhymes; use storybook words or phrases)

use obvious context clues, and background knowledge to understand word


meanings

use context clues and background knowledge to explain the meaning of


words and sentences

use context clues and background knowledge to explain the meaning of new
vocabulary, as well as some simple descriptive/figurative words and sentences

It is important that a teacher pause occasionally at even common words to make sure the reader can explain what they mean to the text. Teachers may consider many words to be understood which actually have totally different meaning to their students. Does the child know that a horse farm is called a ranch, or do they only know that to be a type of salad dressing? Does he know that the horse being lame means having a hurt leg, or does he think that lame means not cool? Often a student can read with great confidence and clarity while merely guessing at meaning. This causes skimming and a habit of settling for less meaning while reading. This can be interpreted as carelessness and laziness, but is sure to occur if a child has not been given the skills to infer word meaning.

The CAF Menu


The creators of The Daily Caf teach near Seattle, Washington, where many students are English language learners. This challenge has made it necessary to maintain a strong focus on vocabulary building. If a student mistakes the meaning of a word it can confuse meaning overall. It is important that teachers see vocabulary development as a strong priority, even in completely English speaking classrooms, since it is so supportive of other comprehension strategies. The E in CAF heads a column called Expand Vocabulary. In this list, the goal of vocabulary building is broken down into seven sub skills and is a constant visual reminder to the teacher to support student comprehension by regularly focusing on word meaning. As in their advice for inference itself, the vocabulary column teaches students to infer word meaning by seeking clues and confirmation in pictures, illustrations, diagrams, word parts, prior knowledge, and context. Each of these points is then explained in greater depth in the books reference forms and explored in video clips on the CAF website.

The CAF Menu Headings


Expand Vocabulary
I know, find, and use interesting words

I understand what I read

Comprehension

I can read the words

Accuracy

I can read accurately, with expression, and understand what I read

Fluency

Dillers Strategy Continuum


Debbie Diller also devotes an entire column of her table to vocabulary development. She offers a progressive display to support teachers continual focus on this skill. Vocabulary building skills are not mastered through a few specific lessons, but through consistent attention to new words in context over time. Dillers table offers plenty of detail to cover inferred word meaning and complies well with the Standards. In addition to her direct inferential supports for vocabulary building, Diller prescribes a progressive range of structural vocabulary strategies, such as prefix, suffix identification and practice with homophones and homographs. Dillers vocabulary lesson plan called Getting Meaning from Context (154) prompts this skill by asking, Whats another word we could use here that makes sense? Use the pictures to help you figure out what that word means. Teaching foci from Dillers table, Reading Levels and What to Focus on in Lessons (171-174) D -Uses vocabulary of the book for retelling E Uses new vocabulary, especially when reading non-fiction F - Notices new words and figures out meaning, using the pictures for support - Learns new words, especially when reading non-fiction G, H - Pays attention to new vocabulary while reading - Uses new words in retelling and conversation - Rereads to get meaning of new words I - Pays more attention to new words and tries to figure out their meaning - Discovers specialized vocabulary in nonfiction J, K - Pays attention to new words and uses context of words and pictures to determine meaning M- Reads and under-stands many new vocabulary words, especially in nonfiction

Questioning
After students get used to gaining new information from texts, and by being questioned by their teacher, they should be internalizing inquiry to prompt clearer understanding. This should include both literal and inferential self-questioning. Students are often heard interrupting their reading to talk to themselves about the texts content. When this self-talk begins with, I wonder.., he/she is using a valuable strategy and opening his/her mind to deeper understanding. Although questioning is not uniquely discussed in the Standards, it is stressed in the NB Reading Curriculum document. Early and transitional readers are required to, formulate questions as well as understanding, (84) and to generate questions to guide research. (30) This identifies questioning as a casually used skill as well as the deeper, more deliberate form. Asking questions either form random curiosity or in a deliberate way, leads students to demonstrate a grasp of further curriculum outcomes such as, identifying principles of order in text (time, space, cause and effect).

Beanie Babies
Questioning Owl, from the Beanie Babies display, presents this strategy very thoroughly. He leads readers to strategically ask these questions before, during and after reading, and even suggests very briefly what these questions might be by reminding readers with a list of questioning words. Asking questions about where and when applies the curriculums direction for identifying principles of time and space. Questioning why covers the principles of cause and effect. He reminds students to ask questions and look for answers. This focuses on the curriculums goal of having students ask questions to guide research. Again, the Beanie Babies resource can be useful in supporting these curriculum outcomes if the teacher is aware of what the curriculum truly requires.
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The CAF Menu


The creators of CAF list this idea as Ask Questions Throughout the Reading Process. It is regarded as an important strategy because it achieves active involvement with text. Readers are considered successful in this strategy when they are able to generate their own questions and understand that all their questions may not be answered (160). Although before, during and after questioning is not specified in the books Ready Reference Form, it was included in the web site and in the sites Parent Pipeline. A possible shortfall of the CAFs approach is that it is scripted and vague, rather than leaving it to the student to make it text specific. For example, the suggested question, How do I think the story will end? is not as provocative as the text specific student generated question, Will Max get to the fire truck in time to save the building? CAF states that successful readers generate their own questions as they are reading, but then offers a generalized script. Teachers should not limit their teaching to the modeled script as presented. This does, however, present a rage of questioning categories.

Dillers Strategy Continuum


Debbie Dillers strategy list has questioning mentioned only once. The band for levels N, O, P states, Asks more questions as reading. This simplified direction may mislead a teacher in thinking that Debbie Diller puts little importance on questioning and that she intends for it to be left until the final reading levels. On the contrary, Dillers strong emphasis on questioning is evident in the before, during and after reading questions she uses in every lesson plan. In her lesson on self-questioning (53), she uses the prompts What questions are you thinking about as you read? Did the author answer your questions? and, What questions do you still have?

She has children practice questioning very deliberately by writing down their questions as they read both non-fiction and mystery text. This expert direction can be lost when a teacher sees only the single mention of questioning in the final band of Dillers continuum. Of course, students should be practicing questioning long before reaching level N. Simply asking questions is not enough; students need to ask questions skillfully. I think it is important to focus on real questions that emerge during the reading, not just test questions that may appear on a standardized state assessment. Authentic questions help students see that they are responsible for their own comprehension. (Diller, 52)

Use of text Features to Gain Additional Information


Text features are added to books to make information more visually clear. Teachers, however, must not assume that students understand how they are to be interpreted. Explicit instruction, read aloud modelling, and pointed questioning will make sure that students know how to get the full message from a book. The following questions are suggested in the grade two standards (9). o o o o o How did this photograph help you understand ____ (idea from book)? What does this label tell us about this picture? Why is this word written this way (e.g., squiggly letters)? What do you notice about the way the author wrote the word, STOP? Why do you think the author did that?

Text features include minor elements such as the font of a particular word or major elements such as illustrations and tables. A reader who is struggling with difficult text will often omit spending his strained attention on extra features, especially if they involve some of the books more challenging vocabulary. Training in identifying and using these features should begin early with oral reading comprehension. Students should not be having their first exposure to nonfiction text feature when they begin reading level K, but should recognise the books layout as something commonly explained by teachers. Students should find that using these features routinely makes difficult reading easier.
The following table shows the progression of this skill (text features) required in the NB Reading and Writing Achievement Standards at the end of these instruction periods. use basic text features (e.g., title, cover, illustrations) to gain obvious information

Entry K

Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3

use text features (e.g., title, headings, photographs, labels, font) to access obvious
information

use text features (e.g., headings, simple diagrams, captions, labels, font)
to gain additional information from the text

use text features (e.g., captions, charts/diagrams, font, glossaries) to gain


additional information from the text, demonstrating a general understanding of their purpose; may have difficulty interpreting some visual information

The CAF Menu


CAFs presentation of this strategy is called, Use Text Features (titles, headings, captions, graphic features). It is recommended for use when a student, doesnt remember details from non-fiction. (153) Students are trained to scan non-fiction text for special features, recognizing their various forms, and understanding how they contribute to the authors message. CAFs Parent Pipeline (Behne) for this strategy recommends that when a text feature appears, parents should give their children the opportunity to consider and explain what the feature means to them. CAF clearly endorses the importance of teaching this strategy through modelling. It is, however, not present in the Emergent CAF Menu or the Transitional CAF Menu which are meant for the earlier years. This is less than the instruction expected by NB Reading Curriculum.

Dillers Strategy Continuum


After the skills of word solving and basic comprehension are mastered in levels A-J, Diller introduces the use of text features. These skills are typically developed at levels K and L because those levels have sufficient text complexity. Teaching foci from Dillers table, Reading Levels and What to Focus on in Lessons (171-174) K - Uses text features to aid comprehension in nonfiction L - Uses text features and structures Dillers book includes a lesson plan on non-fiction text features (156) and another on text structure (43). Text features are very useful in displaying a books structure, so it is logical to teach that next. This understanding of text structures is also supported by the Dillers use of graphic organizers in earlier levels and directed for level I in the strategy level display. I retells with increasing detail using graphic organizers Although this list appears to satisfy the NB reading curriculums standards, it fails to introduce the use of simple text features in early reading as listed in the Reading Standards for kindergarten and grade 1.

Draws Conclusions/Makes Comparisons


One might see drawing conclusions as just another branch of inferring. The NB Reading Standards explanation, however, describes this strategy as a more defined relationship between ideas. Inferring leads a reader to see what is implied, whereas, concluding and comparing use more overt information as a reader draws together information from different places in the text and its special feature (glossary, text boxes, tables) as mentioned above.

The following table shows the progression of this skill (draws conclusions/makes comparisons) required in the NB Reading and Writing Achievement Standards at the end of these instruction periods.

Entry K Grade 1 Grade 2

-----------------------------------------

Grade 3

interpret basic relationships among ideas to draw conclusions or make concrete comparisons, with general reference to the text interpret direct relationships among ideas to draw conclusions (e.g., cause/effect) or make obvious comparisons, using some details from the text interpret clear relationships among ideas to draw conclusions (e.g., cause/effect; sequence) or make comparisons, using some supporting textual details

Beanie Babies
Beanie Babies partially covers this standard since the poster for Iggy the Inferring Iguana advises, Draw conclusions as you put information together. However, as mentioned above, drawing conclusions and making comparisons goes well beyond inferring and deserves to be in a class by itself.

The CAF Menu


CAF lists two strategies which support this focus, Compare and Contract Within and Between Texts, and Recognize and Explain Cause and Effect Relationships. The Interactive Caf Menu, on its website, defines Compare and Contrast as, Readers understand new ideas in text by thinking about how things are alike or different, thus deepening their comprehension. Venn diagrams are suggested as students learn to compare real life examples and then transfer the skill to text ideas (169). The Parent Pipeline letter for Explain Cause and Effect Relationships encourages modelling this by explaining why things happened and helping children notice clue words in text, such as: because, if, then, since, so, therefore, and as a result of.

Dillers Strategy Continuum


Although Debbie Diller mentions connections and teaches students to assimilate them as schema, this does not extend to the grouping or comparing of details within texts to draw conclusions. This concept is more closely represented in her strategies for graphing text ideas in organizers. However, graphic organizers are only listed with her strategies as a retell supports. Within her book, Making the most of Small Groups, Differentiation for All, Diller explains the use of graphic organizers to sort out confusing information and relationships within texts. (51) In this

lesser way Diller touches on the NB Reading Curriculum requirements but is not a recommended source for teachers enquiry. Teaching foci from Dillers table, Reading Levels and What to Focus on in Lessons (171-174) I - begins to learn how to build schema on less familiar topics M- Builds schema for unfamiliar topics when reading

It is interesting to see that Debbie Dillers use of graphic organizers supports the relationship between ideas and CAFs strategy supports the other half of this outcome, comparing.