Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Teach Inference: Inferential or Logical Thinking

How to Teach Inference: Inferential or Logical Thinking
Hi Stephanie,
You have many important questions and non have fast easy answers, I will try to help with suggestions and activities to help you and Brady develop a strong educational plan.

The first question I will try to address is "He is reading above grade level but struggles with pragmatics (if it isn't specifically stated in the text he has trouble drawing inferences)"

Developmentally students move from a concrete or literal thinking to a more complex inferential thinking by the age of 11. Students with cognitive delays may take longer to gain the reasoning skills to infer and think abstractly. Also students raised in a language poor learning environment will show delays in background knowledge that is the foundations for strong reasoning skills and inferential thinking.

Ways to help students build abstract reasoning skills.

  • Field trips are always the best way to build experiential or background knowledge which is the foundation of reasoning.

  • Reading, telling, and sharing jokes with students helps to build inferential skills.

  • Playing vocabulary games to develop a deeper understanding of figurative language. Lakeshore learning makes great games. 

  • Ask students open-ended questions that have no contextual answer but many answers. Why does Lord Voldemort hate, fear, and grudgingly regard Harry Potter?
  • Using plays, movies, and TV to help students make connections to inferential thinking. 
Reading Between The Lines!
Shrek: For your information, there's a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example... uh... ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes... No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave 'em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs...
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake!
Shrek: I don't care what everyone else likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait's gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet! Link to IMDB Quote

Using Inferential Vocabulary With Students: Going Beyond Who? What? When? Where? and How?  

Guess, predict, empathize, feelings, conclude, assume, deduce, anticipate, hypothesize, envision, foresee, presume, judge, critique, figure, conceive, surmise, expect, assess, summarize, foretell, anticipate, conjecture, opinion.

More to Come!

Best Grade Level Reading Assessment

The Best Reading and Language Arts Curriculum

I love your blog! I'm writing to ask for your opinion if it wouldn't be too much of an imposition. My son is very bright and has mild Aspergers. He is reading above grade level but struggles with pragmatics (if it isn't specifically stated in the text he has trouble drawing inferences). I am homeschooling him for 2nd grade because we were unable to find a program that seemed like a good fit. He is labeled "twice exceptional" and has an amazing, wonderful, fascinating brain. I kept hearing the words "he can't" when he clearly can do anything he sets his mind to. He was starting to feel like a problem child and hate learning, when he has always been curious, interested, and happy to read anything interesting that I provided. So, we decided to take advantage of the large homeschooling community in our area and will be giving it a try, but I'd like some guidance from a professional that has high standards and understands learning differences. I've seen your comments on Huffington Post and read your blog and you seem to be an incredible teacher with a great understanding of kids and reading. I would really appreciate any suggestions you would be willing to share.

I am having trouble finding a good Language Arts curriculum that will challenge and interest him and we start homeschooling in 2 weeks. For 1st grade his school used Scott Foresman Reading which seemed to be almost an entire grade level above what our Virginia public schools are using. I would just skip to a 3rd grade LA curriculum but I think he needs more practice due to his issues with pragmatics which negatively impacts his reading comprehension (he remembers what he has read, but might not understand it thoroughly due to difficulty drawing conclusions). He is very good at spelling, has the vocabulary of a much older child, and is very interested in science and technology. My plan for the summer is to help him develop an ear for the English Language through reading poetry together, listening to songs and analyzing the various methods used by song writers to make lyrics interesting (double meanings, alliteration, rhyming, patterns, etc.), reading well written literature that has stood the test of time, and reading news for kids to understand writing for different purposes. He already knows what homophones, nouns, proper nouns, and antonyms are and has fun discussing them as we read so I would like to continue with grammar but it will not be our main focus. We will be using Mad Libs to continue learning parts of speech in addition to any curriculum.

I am looking for ways of determining his reading level. His teacher was unable to provide much information, but when I asked if 3rd grade books would be too advanced, she said no. I would guess that he reads at a 4th grade level. I am looking for a good reading list (chapter books, websites, magazines, and poetry).

More Information:
Writing is a struggle for him. Keeping an idea in his head and remembering all of the rules and how to form lower case letters at the same time is very challenging, so I am looking for a Language Arts curriculum that inspires him to want to write.Handwriting is a struggle, but he has asked that we begin learning cursive, so I will give it a try without pushing too hard. I'm trying to decide if narration, dictation, and copy work would be good tools for us to use until he is more developmentally ready to write down his thoughts independently and he will be using software to learn to type to see if that helps him put his thoughts down on paper more easily.
He scores 99th percentile on standardized tests (ERB).

Brady will turn 7 on July first, so he was always the youngest in his class. That is one of the reasons I was willing to take the chance on a year long homeschooling experiment; if I had it to do all over again I would have waited a year to put him in school. We didn't know he was on the Autism Spectrum until he was 5 and he was so bright that I put him in preschool at 3. His teachers said holding him back a year would be a mistake because he was already so bored, and he does very well when worked with one on one, so hopefully I am not damaging him for life!

Is there a standardized test that is a better indicator of understanding and knowledge than the school system typically uses? In Virginia we are required to test each year as proof of progress when homeschooling, but it seems many standardized tests these days are more about the teacher than the student.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, any recommendations at all would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Stephanie 

Dear Stephanie,
Thank you for your letter and kind words about Reading Sage. I will give all your questions deliberate thought and consideration to help you and your son form a useful education plan. Stephanie, I would like to post your letter to the Reading Sage blog and answer your questions there to help other parents and teachers that may have similar questions. May I have your permission to repost your letter. Thank you for your questions. Sean

P.S. Please go on lots of field trips this summer with your son and get some great joke books to read. Jokes are a great way to teach inferential thinking. Field trips are a great way to build background knowledge that is critical to inferential thinking. Who? What? When? Where? and How? are part of inferential thinking and background knowledge is the key. A note on expectations: Students transition from concrete operational thinking to more logical and inferential thinking at about age 11. Your son will strengthen and further develop these skills in time with the right learning environment.

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