Teaching inferencing to students with language impairment can be important,
because they may find it difficult to generate implied meaning from text independently.
Brown and Yule define inference skill as 'that process which the bearer
or reader must go through to get from the literal meaning of what is written
to what the writer intended to convey.'
Inference - an example
An inference is a prediction or deduction about something in written text
often to do with what the character may see, hear, smell, taste or feel.
An inference contrasts sharply with mere observation, or literal language.
For instance, an observation may be... 'It was a hot day and Billy sweated, so
he stripped to his shorts to get cool.'
An inference would be more like... 'Billy stood in the shade of a tree, that helped
beat back some of the heat. He changed into his shorts and put sunscreen on his skin.'
The observation presents only the facts. We know it's
a hot day because it states, 'it was a hot day and Billy sweated.'
In the abover inference example, there is nothing stated explicitly about it being a hot day.
But the reader can infer that it's a hot day by the information
presented, such as 'the shade of the tree beating back the heat; and Billy changed into his
shorts and applied sunscreen.' All of the language strongly suggests that it is a hot day.
Research indicates that most children by the age of 6-7 years are competent at making inference from implied text.
However, inference can be a difficult skill for children with language impairment to
learn. Inference tends to rely on having good word and world knowledge - a solid
knowledge, and an extensive semantic word knowledge network. We know that children with language impairment
often have impoverished vocabularies, which can impact on their ability to understand
information in text that is not explicitly stated.
So an important question is, what is the best method of teaching inference to children with language difficulty?
Apart from generally improving a student's vocabulary and world knowledge,
a good way to improve inference skills is to ask prediction questions. The student could
read a passage from a book and then asked what may happen next and why.
For a more in depth description of inferencing please follow this
to free inferencing activities. There are several free adobe downloads, that feature teaching inferencing exercises for 7 - 11 year old students.
Teaching Inferencing using an Illustration