Strategies for Indirect Questions
Answering indirect questions requires the reader to make inferences. An inference is where you take evidence and make a conclusion that is non-obvious. The National Foundation for Educational Research's report Effective Teaching of Inference Skills for Reading elaborates on the disagreements between researchers in the field, but for the purposes of OSSLT preparation, the way inferences are conceived of by Graesser et al. in Constructing Inferences During Narrative Text Comprehension is one of the most useful:
Text Connecting inferences help a reader understand the meaning of a sentence. One example of this inference is the use of pronouns (he, she, etc.), where the person isn't named, but the reader still understands who is being referenced.
Extra-textual inferences are where the reader activates their background knowledge and draws their own conclusion. For example, if a character gives a red rose to another, the reader can understand that the character has romantic intentions. These are the types of inferences that are most difficult for students on the OSSLT.
The report goes on to discuss several ways to improve students' inferencing skills:
Being An Active Reader
Because the reader needs to access their background knowledge in order to effectively make extra-textual inferences, it is vital to always be questioning the text and relating it to other experiences. If there is something in the text that is confusing, the reader should resolve that confusion immediately by going back and reviewing some text or using other strategies like visualization in order to better understand the characters or events.
Less-able readers tend to be less aware:
- that a text should make sense to them
- that they should be monitoring their understanding for potential inconsistencies
- of strategies to adopt when embarking on a text
- of strategies to adopt when an inconsistency occurs
- of the need to draw inferences at all
- of the information that is relevant to the drawing of inferences.
Skills for Inferencing
- Ensuring that the reader has a sufficient vocabulary to understand the text is essential
- If a reader is struggling with decoding the text, they may not have enough cognitive power left over to make inferences
- Having readers generate questions about the text can help them to identify they types of information that might be asked about as they are reading
- Readers can develop a deeper understanding of texts more easily if they habitually consider their background knowledge
- Inferencing is a separate skill from reading, so it can also be developed using other contexts like movies, TV, or podcasts