Research has now become a product that can be used in the classroom! Click here to access it. We all know the formula:
text details + background knowledge = inference
What if a student does not have background knowledge? They will know that they should have details to support their answer, but they just won’t know which details are important.
Why We Need Something New
Unlike math that is organized with a sequence of skills that should be taught in a certain way, for example: #1 identify a fraction, #2 know what is the numerator and denominator, #3 add fractions, etc., reading is — less organized. Students are told to just “infer”, but there are different categories of inferences. Even with these categories, there is not a sequence of which inferences should be taught at each grade level or even an inference teaching sequence within each grade level.
The Problem With Background Knowledge
Robert Marzano in his book The Art and Science of Teaching: Teaching Inference and E.D. Hirsch in the book Why Knowledge Matters both explain how important background knowledge is for comprehending text and specifically for making inferences. Strong readers read many books. These same strong readers gain background knowledge about characters, settings, cause and effect, historical patterns, and scientific knowledge as they read many books. This process is cumulative and occurs over months and years. When this is added to rich life experiences, strong readers bring a wealth of insight to the table when they read. Strong readers intuitively make inferences because they notice patterns that repeat across texts. They can quickly predict what event will happen next in a plot because they have seen similar events play out in other books. They can infer character traits in a new book because strong readers know how kind, jealous, curious, or loyal characters behave because they have read many stories about characters that have these same patterns of behavior.
This is not the case with students that struggle in reading. Struggling readers lack background knowledge because they have read fewer books. Plus, the books they have read have primarily focused on decoding.
A New Resource for Teaching Reading
We know that students should learn their basic facts. When they know their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, they can quickly process information in math. These basic skills form a knowledge building block that serves as the base for math in the upper elementary grades and later on in high school.
Comprehension facts flashcards use a similar principle. Important patterns that are seen in fiction and nonfiction texts have been compiled into flashcards. For a few minutes each day, students learn the common types of details that help them infer, plus they go farther. Students are taught how to interpret what they have read and build background knowledge. Nonfiction and fiction passages are included. An answer key is on each card. Full directions and lesson plans are included. Click here to access it.