Mastering Inference Questions: A Four-Step Reading Strategy

In the realm of STAAR test preparation, one question type that often leaves students scratching their heads is inference questions. These questions require more than just regurgitating facts from the passage; they demand a deeper understanding and critical thinking skills.

Today, I will walk you through example inference questions using a four-step reading strategy that will empower you and your students to tackle them with confidence.

You can also try these task cards with your students. Click your grade here – 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, and English I & II.

Watch me work through the questions in the video below, or you can read the summary in the blog.

How to Answer Inference Questions

Understanding Inference Questions:

Before we dive into our four-step strategy, let’s clarify what inference questions are. Inference questions go beyond the text and ask about something not directly stated in the passage. They require readers to grasp the big picture and connect the dots using clues from the text and their prior knowledge. It’s about making conclusions or inferences.

The Four-Step Reading Strategy:

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to tackle inference questions effectively. I’ve developed a four-step reading strategy that has proven to be invaluable for both teachers and students:

4 Strep Reading Strategy - STAR reading strategy to help with Inference questions

Step 1: Scan

The first step is to scan the questions. We want to determine whether the question is a whole or part question. Whole questions require information from the entire passage, while part questions allow students to focus on specific sections. Inference questions are typically whole questions because understanding the whole passage is crucial to making an accurate inference. For example, “Which of the following is true about the lion cub?” and “Which statement about Tarzan is true?” are both whole questions.

Step 1: Scan the questions looking for part of whole.

Step 2: Target the Text

Step two involves targeting the text. This means understanding the context and the characters in the passage. You’ll identify the setting, characters, problem, and solution. It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. For instance, in our example passage, the characters are Tarzan and the lion cub. The problem is the lion cub’s fear, and the solution is Tarzan calming the lion cub.

Step 2: target the text

Step 3: Actively Read

In the third step, actively read the passage with a focus on the setting, characters, problem, and solution. This helps you internalize the information and prepares your mind to make inferences based on these elements. In our example, Tarzan’s interaction with the lion cub and how it changes from fear to calmness is crucial.

Step 3: Actively Read

Step 4: Respond

The final step is to respond to the questions. This is where you put everything you’ve gathered from the previous steps into action. Let’s work through a few inference questions using this strategy.

Step 4: response to questions. This is an image for the first example, question 1.

Question 1: About the Lion Cub

The question asks, “Which of the following is true about the lion cub?” Option “A” states, “He felt comfortable with Tarzan.” We examine the passage for clues and find that the cub ceased its struggles and was no longer afraid when Tarzan interacted with it gently. This suggests that the lion cub did feel comfortable with Tarzan. However, it’s crucial to examine the other answer choices to avoid getting tricked.

This is an image of the example question number 2

Question 2: About Tarzan

The question is, “Which statement about Tarzan is true?” Option “B” reads, “He has a way with animals.” We find evidence in the passage where Tarzan calms the lion cub through gentle interaction and cooing. This indicates that Tarzan does indeed have a way with animals. Again, be cautious about answer choices that might sound plausible but aren’t supported by the passage.

Sample question number 3. SCR and its answer.

Question 3: The Meaning of ‘Hated Manscent’

The question, “What does the author mean by ‘hated Manscent’?” requires us to interpret this term. In the passage, it’s mentioned that the lion cub ceased its struggles and aggression upon being picked up by Tarzan. We can infer that the cub used to “hate” or be fearful of humans, and this fear was triggered by their scent. Therefore, our response might look something like, “When the author says ‘hated Manscent’ in the passage, he means the lion knows to be afraid of and not like people by their smell.”

Inference questions can be challenging, but with the right strategy, students can navigate them with confidence. The four-step reading strategy breaks down the process and empowers students to make logical inferences based on the text’s context. As you practice this strategy, you’ll find that students become more adept at connecting the dots and drawing meaningful conclusions. Inference questions will no longer be a stumbling block but an opportunity to demonstrate their reading comprehension skills.

You can see more examples of the 4 step reading strategy here.

For more inference practice and valuable resources, don’t forget to check out my inference task cards on my TPT store. Click your grade here – 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, and English I & II.

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