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Making inferences in informational texts | Reading

Inferences are conclusions we make based on clues in a piece of writing. They're more than guesses but not just observations. Become a reading detective by developing your ability to search for clues in the text and combine them with your own knowledge!

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Video transcript

- [David] From the moment she strolled into my office, I could tell she was gonna be a difficult sentence to read. You could tell from the way she walked she was carrying a lot of information, but getting it out of her wouldn't be easy. I was gonna need to make an inference. Hey, what's up readers? David here. I'm taking advantage of the cold that I have by doing my serious detective voice in order to teach you about inferences. (phone ringing) Hold on, let me get that. Hi, this is David. I'm in the middle of doing a video. Now isn't a great time. - [Man On Phone] Hello, I have information about what an inference is. - [David] Oh, oh that's great. Cool, follow me over to the next screen. What is an inference, please? - [Man On Phone] An inference is a conclusion that you make based on clues given in a piece of writing. It's more than a guess, but it's not just an observation either. - [David] Great, thank you. Was that all you needed? - [Man On Phone] Yeah, that was my only thing. - [David] All right, thanks, bye. - [Man On Phone] Goodbye. - [David] So an inference is a conclusion that you draw from writing. It's an idea that you pull from a sentence or a passage that isn't literally printed there. It's the detective work of reading, finding clues that help you make sense of what's being said. I feel like we're kind of getting bogged down in theory land so let's take a look at an example. I went outside and made an enormous snow fort. There's my snow fort. It's a D on the flag to represent me. There's me little hot cocoa, couple marshmallows floating in there, my Khan Academy mug. They don't make Khan Academy mugs. I want a Khan Academy mug. Okay, so what conclusions can we draw from these two sentences? I went outside and made an enormous snow fort. Beautiful, brilliant, enormous. Then I came inside and had a big mug of hot chocolate. Same deal, brilliant, beautiful, enormous. What conclusions can I draw about this situation? Well if you're making things out of snow and then you're coming inside and having hot chocolate, it's probably not the height of summer. One inference that I can draw from these two sentences together is that it is winter time when this sentence takes place. Where I live, these are not activities that one pursues in the height of summer outside. I'm looking for clues within the text. Snow fort, I'm outside, I came inside and then I had hot chocolate which is not traditionally a beverage that is consumed when it's warm out. Let's take a look at another example. This paragraph is part of a longer passage that is about a young ballet dancer named Michaela. Michaela danced so wonderfully that she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theater. That was only the beginning of her dancing success. When she was 17, Michaela danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem professional company. Later, she joined the Dutch National Junior Company. Today, Michaela is a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet. So very quickly without getting bogged down in this passage, what are some conclusions, what are some inferences that we can draw about Michaela? Who is Michaela? What do we know about her? We know that she's a dancer. We know that she's very good at it, right? She danced so wonderfully that she got a scholarship. So I'm gonna say Michaela is very talented and we know that her talent led to success because her getting the scholarship was only the beginning of her dancing success. We can see from the passage that she was part of at least three different dance companies, the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Dutch National Junior Company, and as a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet today. So I'm gonna say that Michaela is a very hard worker. Now notice no where in the passage does it say Michaela is a very talented, hard working dancer. Just like in the previous example, it didn't say, it was winter outside so I made a snow fort. What the skill of inference is requires you to be a detective and take your magnifying glass to the passage to discover clues. Imagine you're a detective like this dog. He's wearing a little deer stalker cap. Let's call him, let's call him Sherlock Bones, the famous dog detective that I just made up. I feel like Sherlock Holmes is always smoking a pipe so I'm gonna give this dog like a, I don't know a bone or a piece of rawhide or something. Imagine that you are a detective or a dog detective if you like and every time you read a text, let's say a book, that you are searching for clues within it. What you're doing when you make an inference is you are taking the information that you already know about the world and the places and people in it and how they behave and what they look like and what they do and you're applying that knowledge to the text. When do people build snowmen? When do people build snow forts? When do they drink hot cocoa? In the winter time. An important thing to remember though is that inferring is not guessing. Any time you make an inference, you have to be pulling it directly from the text. That's your jumping off point. It can't just be a wild guess out of no where. It comes from information that you've got there on the page. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat my weight in cough drops. You can learn anything, David out.