Inferences are often referred to as what you “read between the lines.”
The meaning is really found “between your ears.”
Inferences are what the author implies or suggests.
The author wants you, the reader, to make the jump to the same conclusion the author has made.
When the author implies something, the reader has to infer.
(Zimmermann and Hutchins, 2003, p. 97).
What Happens When You Read?
While you read, your inside voice:
Finds connecting points
Personalizes the reading
Uses background knowledge to interpret
Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, p. 97.
When Do We Infer?
We infer all the time.
“Feeling empathy for characters, laughing at a joke, discovering an answer to a riddle, getting a sense about the setting of a story, reacting to facts, and solving a mystery are all part of inferential thinking.”
(Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, p. 115).
A Simple Inference
If the skies suddenly grow very cloudy and the wind begins to whip around your legs, how do you infer?
You have seen this weather pattern before.
You have background knowledge about storms.
You make connections between your background knowledge and the current weather pattern.
Based on these connections, you make a prediction.
Let’s Use Background Knowledge
Even couples with only mild difficulties in communicating can have important misunderstandings. Marjorie, for example, wanted Ken to invite her to a favorite cocktail lounge overlooking a bay to celebrate their anniversary. She archly asked him, “Ken, do you feel like going out for a drink tonight?” Ken, who was feeling tired, missed the hidden message contained in her question. He responded, “No, I’m too tired.” Marjorie was extremely disappointed. Only after feeling hurt and sorry for herself did she realize that she had not communicated to Ken her real desire – to celebrate their anniversary. When she later made clear her true wish, he readily agreed to celebrate.
Beck, Love is Never Enough
What Can You Infer?
Marjorie and Ken are probably married?
Marjorie and Ken have been married for a long time?
Ken does not enjoy going out for drinks with his wife?
If Marjorie had expressed her wish more clearly, Ken would have probably agreed?
All couples can have communication problems?
Which of the assumptions listed below can be inferred from the text?
You Used Your Background Knowledge
Married couples have anniversaries.
Couples married both a short time and a long time have anniversaries.
Married couples you know have had misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
You Used Hints in the Text and Asked Yourself Questions
Ken “readily agreed” is a clue. You asked yourself, “Does this mean he didn’t understand at first?”
“ No, I’m too tired,” is a clue. You made a connection to this statement and Marjorie’s hurt feelings.
“ For example” is a clue that a story is coming. You could predict that the author was going to give a specific example, or story, to illustrate the point.
Let’s Look At Another Story Boori Ma, sweeper of the stairwell, had not slept in two nights. So the morning before the third night she shook the mites out of her bedding. She shook the quilts once underneath the letter boxes where she lived, then once again at the mouth of the alley, causing the crows who were feeding on vegetable peels to scatter in several directions. As she started up the four flights to the roof, Boori Ma kept one hand placed over the knee that swelled at the start of every rainy season. That meant that her bucket, quilts, and the bundle of reeds which served as her broom all had to be braced under one arm. Lately Boori Ma had been thinking that the stairs were getting steeper; climbing them felt more like climbing a ladder than a staircase. She was sixty-four years old, with hair in a knot no larger than a walnut, and she looked almost as narrow from the front as she did from the side. Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies, as printed in Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, pp. 95-96.
Questions And Observations You Can Make About This Passage
Why hasn’t Boori Ma slept in two nights?
Why doesn’t she wash her bedding to get rid of the mites?
Why is she so thin?
Why does she have such as formal title – “sweeper of the stairwell”?
How long has she been doing this?
Your background knowledge tells you that she is very poor (her living conditions).
Your background knowledge may also tell you how it feels to be infested by pests like mites or lice
What will happen to this woman?
Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, pp. 96-97.
Guiding Questions To Help With Inferences
The author gave me a gift in the title. What prediction popped into my head from it? How does it help me?
Now that I’ve almost finished this passage, can I confirm my predictions?
What message do I think the writer wants me to understand? How will this help me remember the reading?
What words helped me reach my conclusions?
How can I explain my inference to somebody else?
Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, pp. 116-117
Mr. Perfect The minister asked for anyone who knew a truly perfect person to stand up. After a long pause, a meek-looking fellow in the back stood. “Do you really know a perfect person?” he was asked. “ Yes, Sir, I do,” answered the little man. “ Would you please tell the congregation who this rare, perfect person is?” pursued the preacher. “ Yes, Sir, my wife’s first husband.” Bonham, The Treasury of Clean Jokes
Questions and Observations for “Mr. Perfect”
How did the title help you?
Did your prediction of who the perfect person was hold true?
What message is the author conveying?
How did your background knowledge help you interpret the message?
What do you think the little man’s wife does to him at home?
Why did the author decide to make the man “little”?
How can you explain your inferences to somebody else?
What Statements Can be Logically Inferred?
The minister is surprised when the man stands up.
The minister is doubtful that the man really knows a perfect person.
The man believes that his wife’s first husband is perfect.
The wife believes that her first husband is perfect.
The man’s wife has been comparing him unfavorably with her first husband.
The Rallying Power of Recorded Music Released in 1984, “We Are the World” right away was the fastest-climbing record of the decade. 4 million copies were sold within six weeks. Profits from the record, produced by big-name entertainers who volunteered, went to the USA for Africa project. The marketplace success paled, however, next to the social impact. The record’s message of the oneness of humankind inspired one of the most massive outpouring of donations to date. Americans pumped $20 million into USA for Africa in the first six weeks the record was out. Within months, $50 million in medical and financial support was en route to drought-stricken parts of Africa. “We Are the World,” a single song, directly saved lives. The power of recorded music is not a recent phenomenon. In World War I, “Over There” and other records reflected an enthusiasm for American involvement in the war. Composers who felt strongly about the Vietnam War wrote songs put their views on vinyl. “The Ballad of the Green Berets” cast American soldiers in a heroic vein, “An Okie from Muskogee” glorified blind patriotism, and there were antiwar songs, dozens of them. Vivan, The Media
What does the title tell me?
What background knowledge can I draw on to understand this passage?
What message does the author want me to understand?
What words helped me reach these conclusions?
How can I explain these inferences to somebody else?
What Can We Correctly Infer?
“ We Are the World” was the best-selling song of all time.
“ We Are the World” would not have been a popular song if the profits had not gone to a charitable cause.
Americans would not have contributed as much to USA for Africa had “We Are the World” not been recorded.
“ Over There” was a patriotic song, supporting US involvement in WW I.
During the Vietnam War, patriotic songs were more popular than antiwar songs.
Practicing This Strategy
The short story, “The Puzzle,” is continued on the next slide.
Read this portion of the story carefully. You may also decide to review previous portions of the story to assure you recall the highlights of the characters and the plot.
“ The Puzzle” by Anonymous “ Pugh, what I hear is the reverberation of some machinery.” “ Do you think so?” “ I’m sure of it.” “ What have you done?” “Broken something, I fancy.” He listened intently, with his ear to the box. “No – it seems all right. And yet I could have sworn I had damaged something; I heard it smash.” “ Give me the box.” He gave it to me. In my turn, I listened. I shook the box. Pugh must have been mistaken. Nothing rattled; there was no wound; the box was as empty as before. I gave a smart tap with the hammer, as Pugh had done. Then there certainly was a curious sound. To my ear, it sounded like the smashing of glass. “I wonder if there is anything fragile inside your precious puzzle, Pugh, and, if so, if we are shivering it by degrees?” II “ What IS that noise?” I lay in bed in that curious condition which is between sleep and waking. When, at last, I KNEW that I was awake, I asked myself what it was that had woke me. Suddenly I became conscious that something was making itself audible in the silence of the night. For some seconds I lay and listened. Then I sat up in bed. “ What IS that noise?” It was like the tick, tick of some large and unusually clear-toned clock. It might have been a clock, had it not been that the sound was varied, every half dozen ticks or so, by a sort of stifled screech, such as might have been uttered by some small creature in an extremity of anguish. I struck a light. The sound seemed to come from the neighborhood of my dressing-table. I went to the dressing-table, the lighted match in my hand, and, as I did so, my eyes fell upon Pugh’s mysterious box. That same instant there issued, from the bowels of the box, a more uncomfortable screech than any I had previously heard. It took me so completely by surprise that I let the match fall from my hand to the floor. The room was in darkness. I stood, I will not say trembling, listening – considering their volume – to the EERIEST shrieks I ever heard. All at once they ceased. Then came the tick, tick, tick again. I struck another match and lit the gas.
What Inferences Can You Make?
Reread this portion of “The Puzzle” to yourself.
Think about the inferences you have made about parts of the story.
Complete the double-entry journal page. Choose your own quotes from the story on which to make inferences.
Be prepared to discuss your connections with this part of the story in class.
So, When We Infer, We…
Make inferences based on sound reasoning.
Use background knowledge to make connections and personalize the reading.
Ask internal questions while reading.
Make predictions and confirm or discard them as we continue reading.
Try to recognize the author’s purpose and message.
Make inferences using what is “between our ears.”
“ Writers give clues, but readers have to amass the evidence and draw conclusions for themselves.“ Zimmerman and Hutchins, 2003, p. 106