Adding to our Teacher’s Toolbox for Inferencing

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Inferencing is a literacy skill that students on the spectrum find particularly challenging because they have a difficult time with tasks that ask them to consider associative meanings or recognize relationships and common features.

To help, just like with main idea and detail questions, teachers should use explicit modeling, scaffolding, and providing direct feedback to reinforce correct answers.

Teachers, likewise, want to place a student with ASD in a reading group where they can hear a “more knowledgeable other” infer aloud in a conversation. Again, teachers should use the think-aloud strategy to model their own inferencing process.

Students on the spectrum are not used to thinking about larger constructs or themes. They need a teacher or peer to help them learn what to notice, understand how to consider all of those details, and to decide how they all fit together.

Returning to graphic organizers, there are many that will support readers who struggle to identify the key pieces of information that would help them make an inference.

The Common Core Standards in this section ask that students do a lot of comparing and contrasting.  There are many compare/contrast and similarity/difference graphic organizers available. The teacher should choose ones that she likes to work with best.

A unique one shared with me by Eric Shipman, a third-grade teacher (http://www.bath.k12.ky.us/docs/Graphic%20Organizers.pdf – see Compare/Contrast with Summary). He appreciated it for the same reasons I am mentioning it here: it explicitly identifies the categories that are to be contrasted. Being able to target specific information to contrast (i.e. food, habitat, predators), is more beneficial than just tasking a learner to compare and contrast two animals. In what ways? About what? This way, the teacher can provide additional guidance for how the students should organize their thinking around the task.

This graphic organizer caught our attention because it added an additional layer of support to the typical compare/contrast strategy. In reality, Mr. Shipman and I found this to challenge students because it deepened the thinking beyond comparing and contrasting appearances or other lower level information. Then, it helps the student with ASD because of how explicitly it directs them to categorize the information garnered from the reading.

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