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Inference, Inference and Inference.....


Inference is just one of the comprehension strategies. There are a few definitions of Inference: Inference means reading all the clues and making your best guess; Inference is a conclusion reached by reasoning from data of premises; Inference is a subjective process where the reader determines where the reader determines what the author is suggesting, using background knowledge and prior experience...


Good Inference Readers attempt to figure out what the author is saying; they read in between the lines; they look for clues in pictures or words to figure out what the book is about and, they keep thinking if their inference is correct by revising all the time.Digging deeper into Inference, I am going start by telling you what Inferring is NOT; it is not a prediction! Prediction is part of Inferring because you can check as you read on whether you are right or wrong about something! Inference is more  personal because it comes from us and is reading in between the lines. It is a higher order thinking where a reader is using a background knowledge and an evidence from the text to draw conclusions. The wording around inference are:

The story said ..... Which made me think...

I think ... Will happen because ...

How the character feels tells me ...

How the character acts tells me ...

For any inference to be a success, one must be aware of:

1. Links across text (local coherence)

2. The  power of a single word as it can twist the previously generated meaning


In relation to the first one, I always explain this to children by showing them a Victoria sponge cake and saying that to make one, one has to put all the layers together; the same goes with reading: to understand it, one has to put all previos knowledge about the story together. For the younger readers, Bob the Builder will do the trick :) 


The second key inference point is the power of a single word! Usually it is the one/ more than one that carry the GIST(love this word)!

For example: Minpins by Roald Dahl

"Little Billy's mother was very controlling, always telling him exactly what he could and couldn't do. All the things he was allowed to do were boring and the things he wasn't allowed seemed to be exciting. 

On this afternoon , Little Billy was kneeling on a chair in the living room, gazing out through the window at the wonderful world beyond. His mother was in the kitchen doing the ironing and although the door was open she couldn't see him. Every now and again his mother would call :"Little Billy, what are you doing?" And Little Billy would always call back and say , "I'm being good Mummy,"

But Little Billy was awfully tired of being good.


As I am reading, my mind is constantly searching, making predictions; I am asking my own questions and watching out for answers; I am being 'Bob the Builder' building my meaning in layers. I am inegrating gist words/phrases all into one picture. What I get is a picture of a very unhappy boy whose life is completely led by his controlling mum and who is about to do something drastic that will change the course of his life....


So, how do we teach Inference? Primarilly by teaching children to look for meaning when reading. Here, reading word by word will not help (my blog on Fluency). In addition to this, children need to be told that when reading, they need to turn into active readers by asking questions, checking and tweaking into what they have learned up to that point. Being a good  'inferer' implies being a good detective who will have to turn into the first class cheff (inegrating all meaning- Jamie Oliver), first class detective (my all time favourite, Sherlock Holmes) and first class movie director (you can come up with your own favourite). :))) Enjoy inferring. 



High Frequency Words


As the name itself says, High Frequency Words are most common words that occur in reading and writing: a, an, and, I, said.....The list goes on and on. Usually, these words have little meaning and a great number of them are pure function (grammar) words (this, these,with, could, be, have etc). As an example,  let us have a closer look up at the indefinite article 'a/an'. It came from the Old English word 'an' ('a' being the long vowel) and it simply meant 'one'. One cannot help thinking that the word resembles the one we all know and use today-'one'! This explains why we use it only with nouns in singular.


Depending on the Phonics Programme, as there are a number of them, the number of High Frequency Words vary and they all fall into the two main groups: regular and irregular. The regular HFW are phonically regular. This simply means one reads them the way they appear; 'and'' is a perfect example. The irregular ones are phonically irregular and one does not and cannot read them the way they appear; 'made' is a perfect example and there are so many more. The more one learns about Phonics in general, the more one realises that in actual fact, there are more language irregularities than regularities (exceptions to the rules than the rules themselves). The main reason to all this is the English language  itself and its development  as a direct or indirect influence of other cultures and languages through wars and invasions. As a matter of fact, much of English language has been adapted from other languages during its development. 


At present time, researchers  reckon that learning just 13 of the most frequently used words will enable children to read 25% of any text (OK, that 25% wouldn't make much sense on its own, but it's a very good start). Learning 100 high frequency words, on the other hand, gives a beginner reader access to 50% of virtually any text, whether a children's book or a newspaper report." Children are expected to memorize these words and read them without using decoding strategies so they can focus better on other words and,  last but not the least, and understanding of the material they read. Fluency is the ultimate gain.

This is the main reason why these words need to be given a great deal of attention in the early stages of reading as they form a substantial foundation of words to be built upon in future. 

Mastering the HFW

There are a number of ways:

1. online games

2. range of traditional games: Snap, Hang Man, Bingo, Scrabble....

3. Fast reading of HFW using flash cards

3. Apps in App Store -My Frequency Words by Simulant, High frequency words by Unit11 and the list goes on and on

4. White Boards and White Board Pens

5. Whole class games eg. Guess the Rule: 4 clues and 4 guesses

6.  My absolutely FAVOURITE- magnetic or just simple, plastic letters! This is a whole new level of experience; hands on experience where a child breaks up a word into a range of ways: initial, middle and final sound; onset-rhyme breaks within monosyllabic words; number of syllables within pollysyllabic words; identifying little word/words within the word; the grapheme-phoneme relationship (e.g. 'find', 'make'). Teaching and learning at its best!


What is Reading Fluency

To read fluently means to read accurately, quickly, easily(effortlessly) and with understanding. I use the widely accepted term 'Reading like Talking'. This simply means that Reading has to sound like Speech: it has to have rhythm, pitch, flow and expression. After all, reading is built upon speech!

'Choppy Reading' and Comprehension

At the very early stages, reading does sound broken, choppy. To linguists, this is known as 'staccato' Reading (disconnected, disjointed, monotonic). Children who do not reading fluently have to work so hard on the mechanics of reading so they are not capable of focusing on the content of what they are reading. As a result, these children struggle with comprehension (understanding) of what they read. They either cannot remember what is it that they have just read: are not capable to talk about it or answer questions about the text!

One of the ways of finding if a child is reading fluently is to let a child read a piece of text alod. When doing so, consider the following:

1. How many words is he/she is struggling with?

2. What problem solving strategies is he/she using when problem solving?

3. Is he/she reading following the punctuation rules through?

4. Can he/she retell the piece they have just read?

How to help child read fluently

1. Model reading

Make it possible for a child to listen to you read. This should feel like singing. 

2. Pay attention to High Frequency Words (about 300 by the end of KS1)

They are daily words and the first hundred words account for 50% of our overall reading material. Can you possibly imagine what reading feels like after these words are learned and out of the way?

3. Choosing the right book and '5 Finger Rule'

Help a child choose a book at his/ her independent level. To do so, use the '5 finger rule'. This means that he/she should not struggle with more than five words during his/her reading. This is a Must for an independent, easy reading!

4. Repeated Reading

This  is one of the best strategies to develop reading fluency. The Best results are achieved when an adult reads a passage or a story and the child reads and rereads it. So often I hear children say "I have read this book" which translates as "I want to return it because I have read it once and there is no need for me to read it again!".This is such a big mistake! Typically reading the text 4 times is suggested when focusing on improving fluency. This is the main reason why Reading Recovery Intervention is always using 2 old books(from the total number of 4) as a part of a daily lesson. 

What is Reading Recovery?

Reading Recovery is a short–term, early literacy intervention, usually between 12-14 weeks. It provides an opportunity for children, mainly in Year 1, who, for one reason or another, have not yet established effective reading and writing processes.

Students receive a series of daily, iindividual thirty minute Reading Recovery lessons (my next blog), in addition to the daily classroom reading and writing. 

The intervention builds on students' strengths, encouraging success and independence, strengthens self esteem and students' natural desire to learn.

Children continue until they have reached a certain level in Reading Recovery books and have developed strategies that will allow them to take part in their reading and writing activities  back in their classroom.


About Mrs Jones

Mrs Jones's avatar
Hi, I am a Reading Recovery teacher and I absolutely love my job, this school and EVERYTHING about it.  

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