Guided Reading: Chapter Books and Making Inferences

Author: CSA Staff - May 26, 2020

To call Ann dedicated to guided reading would be an understatement. Leading her own guided reading program, she sees how students respond to it firsthand and what generates a love of reading. Still, she’s not above seeing the leveled readers’ imperfections.

“I love chapter books,” she told me, “and the kids love them too. But there’s one problem with most of them.”

We need questions that lead up to making the inference.

I was intrigued. “What’s the problem?”

“The questions they give are usually at the end of the book, so the kids have to remember back to everything they read. I would love to see questions for each chapter to make sure kids comprehend what they read and could start making inferences about characters and themes. Some books do have questions after chapters, but sometimes it’s a writing assignment, which isn’t useful. We only have 30 minutes with the students, so there’s not enough time to have them do a writing activity after a chapter.” 

I agree. Taking the students’ needs into account, publishers and writers can write questions after each chapter to make sure students understand what has just happened in the story. It also allows them to start making inferences or predictions.

“We really need some more inference questions and more scaffolding,” she told me. “The students can’t get to the answers in the teacher’s guides. We need questions that lead up to making the inference, especially when there are questions about themes or inferences they want students to make about the author’s purpose or characters. I want kids to be able to make inferences, to really read between the lines, and make connections with the characters. But we don’t have the tools we need. It’s OK for teachers who have been doing this for a long time, but there are plenty of new teachers every year or substitutes, and they get a bit lost. They don’t know how to get students from the question to the answer.”

She’s absolutely right. Making inferences is an essential skill, and we really need to help teachers get their students to understand the process of going from comprehension to inference or analysis. To write effective teacher guides, we need to ask questions with a lot of scaffolding or background. Without scaffolding, we’re not helping students or teachers get from A to B, or even A to Z. We need to build materials that make students want to pick up another book.

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