| | | |

Making Inferences in Expository Text: Test Prep *Freebie!

So it’s official. 
It’s test prep season.  
Good test prep has a few characteristics: it’s precise, it’s engaging, and it helps kids bridge all the awesome stuff you taught all year to the boring stuff they’ll have to do on the test. 
Sometimes kids can do all the big thinking: making connections, making inferences, synethesizing, and more. But you put a test in front of them and it’s like they’ve learned NOTHING all year. Because it looks different (and doesn’t really serve as a measure of what they know) and they have trouble interpreting what the test is asking them to do. It’s all about the format. 
So I used this lesson with a fifth grade class (and then a third grade class tried it out) to help them take the awesome learning they’d done about making inferences and apply it to the test-taking situations they’re likely to see. Because here’s what a lot of kids don’t realize. When it comes to making inferences, the test is likely asking them to do two different things.

They need to:

1. Use evidence from the text to make an inference. OR
2. Locate evidence from the text to support an inference that has already been made.

These are two inverse operations. So what do you do? Well, here’s what I did.
First, we started with a text. To help students bridge what they’ve learned to the test, I used an expository passage from a released test from a few years back. It was about how a specific kind of pine tree survives in its harsh environment.

I provided each kid with a copy of the graphic organizer (provided in the freebie below!) and I charted it. We reviewed the strategy – making inferences using evidence; supporting inferences with evidence. We previewed the text, read the first couple paragraphs and decided on the topic: Bristlecone Pines. Then I asked students to find details in the text that were about bristlecone pines. I wanted them to focus on the topic – that’s what readers do!

They came up with three things: The pines are the oldest trees in the world, the conditions the pines live in kill other trees, and the roots of the pines help them survive. These were taken directly from the text. I had students write them on post-its and stuck them in the “Text Evidence boxes.”

Then we talked about how to make an inference – you put clues together (details) to think about something that’s not directly stated in the text. That’s why it happens in your brain, and why I wrote “BRAIN” down the side of the inference box!

We put the clues together and realized that there was something special about the bristlecone pine that other trees didn’t have – that was our inference.

Here’s the tricky part. How will this look on the test?

Here’s how I did it:

For example, in the question, “Based on the details in paragraph 4, the reader can conclude…” is asking students to use the evidence in paragraph four to create a conclusion. This means that the right answer will not be directly stated in the text; it will be created in your brain based on the details in the text.

Another type of question sounds like this: “Which statement from the text best supports the idea that bristlecone pines have special adaptations to survive in their environment?” In this question, the inference is provided – Bristlecone pines have special adaptations to survive in their environment is the inference that has already been drawn for you. Your job as the test-taker is to find the evidence that supports that statement, or proves that it is true.

After we practiced identifying this on a few questions on the anchor chart, it was time for students to practice in partners (or so I thought).

Each student, on the bottom of their graphic organizer, had a two-column chart. One column is labeled, “Questions where I have to make an inference or draw a conclusion,” and the other is, “Questions where I have to find the evidence to support the inference or conclusion.”

As you can see, the first time kids tried this, they did not have an understanding of what the question was asking them to do.

I gave each student a stack of test questions that were asking them to make an inference based on provided evidence OR support a provided inference with evidence.

They sorted. Badly. Like, really badly. It brought up so many misconceptions, misunderstandings, and struggles with sentence structure – a huge underlying issue in reading comprehension. So we retaught, intervened, etc. But the fact that they struggled so much to identify what the question was asking them to do tells me that we needed to do this lesson!

Happy Teaching! I know test prep is torture, but it will all be over soon…


Want more practice in making inferences? Check out this freebie Reading Strategy MiniPack on TPT!
Pin It


Similar Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *