Our speech and language students benefit from working on inferencing in speech. Here are tips for writing your own questions to help them succeed!
What is inferencing and why should we work on it in speech?
Inferencing is reading in between the lines, taking information that is explicitly stated (clues) + background knowledge to answer questions about things that are implied or not explicitly stated. We so often focus primarily on WH- questions that we forget that our students are expected to answer more complex question types in the classroom.
What does the evidence say about working on inferencing?
Evidence shows the importance of using explicit instruction for teaching students to read between the lines and to attend to details they might not normally attend to. Higher level thinking skills may be difficult to teach, but most studies have shown positive results in a short period of time. (Elleman, 2017).
Literal vs. inferential questions?
I like to use visuals to teach my students the difference between the question types. How do they look? Literal questions have answers that are “right there” in the story and you can easily find the answer stated explicitly. Inferential questions typically have the words: might, probably, think. They require students to “think a little bit.” Just how I use visuals to teach my students the difference, I use them to give myself sentence frames to create my own questions as well! CLICK HERE to access the visuals FREE!
Let’s practice writing our own questions!
Read this following paragraph:
Sally just got home from school. She heard her stomach growl. She walked into the kitchen and opened the cabinet. She took out bread and peanut butter. She took out a plate and knife. She placed all of her items on the counter.
Let’s think of some literal questions (who, what, where, when, why, how):
- Who came home from school?
- Where was Sally?
- What did Sally take out of the cabinet?
- When did Sally go into the kitchen?
As you can see those questions are right there in the story. Now let’s think about what is NOT stated:
- We don’t know why she went into the kitchen.
- We don’t know what she was making.
- We don’t know what she is going to do next.
- We don’t know how she is feeling.
Let’s turn what we don’t know into questions!
- What probably caused Sally to go into the kitchen?
- What do you think Sally is making?
- How do you think Sally felt when she got home from school?
- What might have happened if Sally could not find something to eat?
- What do you assume will happen next?
My best advice is to look for things implied in an article or story and what your students might not grasp on their own..generate lists and then turn them into questions. Use my question stems to guide you.
Now that you have ways to write questions…where do you get the text? I like using free websites like NewsELA.com and Readworks.org. I prefer to use my own questions since they are not as wordy and simplified so my students can grasp them and be successful. Also, these articles don’t always provide multiple opportunities to work on inferencing specifically. We want more opportunities to practice, ability to collect data, and show our students they can be successful!