While Liam was doing very well in math, and could “pronounce” most words he would see in second grade, he still struggled to understand inference questions.
How did the character change in the book? The author didn’t say, so how could he required to answer?
Nevertheless, his teacher persevered. She modeled her thinking for him. She allowed him to listen to how other students would answer the question.
Then we figured out how to make inferencing seem more logical to a second grader: we gave it steps.
I cannot say that this approach worked every time, because sometimes pictures do not provide enough information. However, having listened to how illustrators work to bring the words of the book to life, they are a great place to start, especially for a child like Liam, who is more attuned to visual information.
Then, she taught him to replace the “picture” in the process with a phrase or a sentence from the text.
Finally! He knew what was expected and could take steps toward accomplishing the thinking he was being asked to do: explicit moves he could make to infer.
This attempt to make inferencing more “tangible” helped him speak up more in small group and better understand the expectations of the questions. That did wonders for his reading skills and helped him “keep up” with the other readers in more than decoding and fluency.
It was a breakthrough that we were extremely grateful for, that has served him well as he has gotten older.