How to Make Inferences in Reading

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Making inferences in reading is a crucial skill that must be mastered for a reader to have real comprehension. Making inferences involves reading the text and recalling prior experiences that are similar to what you are reading. Then, you use context clues from the text to draw a logical conclusion about what might happen next. This mental process happens quickly and improves as you move to more complex reading material and have more life experiences for reference.

1 Read short sections of text

Read short sections of text at a time. If you are reading a book, this may mean stopping at the end of every chapter, or at the end of five to seven paragraphs if you are reading a short story. Ask yourself the following questions: Has this scenario ever happened to me or somebody I know? Have I heard about someone who has gone through this? If so, what was the reaction and/or consequence? From what you have read and what you already know, make a prediction about what is going to happen. Read on to find out if you were right or close in your inference.

2 Adjust your inferences

Adjust your inferences. If you are proved right in the further reading of your text, then you are making connections that help you comprehend and more likely to remember what you have read. If what you inferred does not happen, then adjust them accordingly. Compare the events in the text to your prior experiences. Did you think the same way as the main character or have the same emotional response? It is in these metacognitive exercises that you further relate to what you are reading. By re-thinking what you have read, the text will have deeper meaning for you.

3 Practice inferring

Practice inferring. People do not naturally infer, necessarily. Like any skill, it has to be practiced. This can be done in several ways. There are many websites that have downloadable worksheets or interactive games in which a short scenario is presented in a few sentences. You then choose the best inference from three or four possible answers. These activities reinforce and build your inferring skills.

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.