TEACHING STUDENTS 'INFERENCE MAKING SKILLS' FOR THEIR BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE TEXTS

MAKE YOUR STUDENTS GOOD READERS: TEACH THEM INFERENCE SKILLS
Introduction.
By definition, Inference is the reading process in which the reader figure out something that wasn’t completely in the story or text. He/she uses clues to make a good guess. For example, if someone (or a character in a story) is smiling, that is a clue that he/she is happy. If someone is yawning, that is a clue that he/she is tired.
To make a good inference, a student should make a good guess by asking him/herself the following three crucial questions:
  1. What I know: What is known even before reading a text (E.g. I know some parts of my society there is female circumcision)
  2. What I learned from a text: What have been read from the text (I have also learned from the text that in this society there is female circumcision)
  3. What I can infer: What can be identified as result of using clues (The girls are circumcised in the story, hence this is the clue that the story has the theme of female genital mutilation)
When Do We Make Inferences?
We mostly infer when we read literary works. When we infer we ask ourselves several questions, evidences or clues. For example;
  • Think about what you see (clues and evidence), and
  • Think about what you already know (create a mental picture).
In a literary text, when we see a character having dirty and torn clothes, these are the clues or evidences that this particular character is having a certain situation. Then after connecting the situation with what we already know, we realize that the particular character is poor because in our life we know that a person, who has no basic needs like clothes, is poor.
In ‘Unanswered Cries’, for example, here are some of the clues or evidences and the themes they imply”
  •   Olabisi’s wearing of jeans – a modern girl from the city (Modernity)
  •   Rugiatu and Salay wearing lappa – traditional girls from the village (Traditionalists)
  •   Yah Posseh’s clothes and jewels – a traditionalist and a sorcerer (Witchcraft and Sorcery)

Thus, as you can see, the mere appearances of the characters may give the reader clues on what ideas they represent. It is important because the writer does not directly state them.

The differences between Inferences and Predictions.
Inferences: When you use information in the text and what you know, you are trying to figure out something about the text that the author did not tell you.
Predictions: When you use what you know from the text to make a guess at what will happen or could happen next, then your predicting.

Various Ways of Inferring.
A student can infer in a text by;
  1.    Thinking about his/her own experiences.
  2.    Using clues from the text.
  3.    Thinking about how a character handles conflict.
  4.    Thinking about what he/she already knows.
  5.    Thinking about how a character handles change.
  6.    Thinking about a character’s actions.
  7.    Thinking about what a character says.
  8.    Thinking about how a character feels.
Note: A literary text is easily analysed with the students who have inference making skills. When they have mastered this skill, they understand easily and the teacher also teaches them with ease because whenever they meet clues and evidences in the text, they directly infer what they mean. Thus, they can easily identify the themes of a particular text.
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