Thursday, April 26, 2012

Look Out Sherlock Holmes. Here Comes Inference Jones!

For 11 years, while I lived in Florida, I was an educational therapist at a Christian school. I worked with children that had learning differences using a great program called "The Discovery Program".

One of the things that we would do was work on the child's reading comprehension  using different methods. One of those methods was teaching the children how to identify inferences. Inferring is kind of like "reading between the lines". The story may not say that the sky was blue, but it says that the children usual play outside on sunny, blue-sky days. You know that in the story they were playing outside. So, the sky was probably blue that day. That's what "reading between the lines" is.

Little did I know that, nearly 15 years after conducting my last therapy session, I would have a child with asperger's syndrome (on the autism spectrum) that would have problems in this very area. Thankfully, he has some great therapists that work with him along with what we do at home in our homeschool. Still, when I found out that we would be reviewing Inference Jones - Beginning, a great book from The Critical Thinking Company, I was thrilled.

We had the pleasure of reviewing something from Critical Thinking a couple of years ago and still use it. So, I knew that this company had good material. I didn't realize, however how much Inference Jones was going to help our Joshua.

Inference Jones is like no other reading comprehension program I have seen before. Oh, it has similar elements. It asks the usual, easy to answer, comprehension questions that other reading programs ask. However, Inference Jones goes way beyond that. It asks the "not so easy to answer" questions. The questions that make a student think. Joshua has had to really work hard to answer some of the things that they ask.

Some of the concepts that it covers are:
  • Distinguishing Cause and Effect
  • Distinguishing Fact or Inference
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Finding Supporting Evidence
  • Making Inferences
  • Reading for Details
  • Analyzing Character Traits
And those are just a few of the things that Inference Jones covers. There is a lot more that I didn't list.

Some of the question types are the usual true and false, but then they add in an "unsure" category - maybe it did happen, maybe it didn't, but the story doesn't really say. Sometimes kids assume things that aren't really there. This helps them think through what is true, maybe true and false.

Another thing that they may do is ask a question but then require you to prove your answer by telling what sentence the answer is found in (all of the sentences in the short story are numbered). Again, this helps a student analyze a story to make sure that what they think happened really did happen. So many times Joshua will read something but not really know what he read. This type of question helps them to think through what they are reading.


I really like the questions where they ask if something is PT - Probably True or PF - Probably False and then ask the child to support their answer using personal experience. For example, in one of the stories a little boy tripped in hole in the yard and twisted his ankle. The story states that the boy's father was always doing yard work and making sure that the yard was cut perfectly. One of the probably true/probably false questions says that the father used a lawn mower. Of course the proper response is PT-Probably True but the child has to answer why they think it is probably true (the suspected answer would be that most folks use lawn mowers to mow their lawn these days).

You see, though, why a child has to think through these questions before they answer them. Ultimately, the goal is that the child will be more critical of what he is reading.

You can find a sample lesson on the Critical Thinking website by clicking here and then on the words "Click to Look Inside". Check it out and you'll see what I mean about how innovative these stories and questions are.

There are 18 stories in the Inference Jones - Beginning book that we received and each story has approximately 10 questions. We have been doing one or two stories a week and spending only about 15-30 min. on each story. I have Joshua read the story and then instead of writing in the answers I have him orally answer the questions. We then discuss his answers. It's very easy to do and I can really see a difference in how Joshua is reading and comprehending.

Inference Jones - Beginning has 48 perforated pages that can be reproduced for your whole family. An answer key is also included. The cost is $11.99 and it is recommended to be used in grades 2-4 but can be used outside the age range for younger children that are advanced or older children that may have difficulties in reading comprehension. Inference Jones - Level 1 is scheduled to be released in June 2012 and it is recommended for kids in Grades 5-6. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to find out more about Inference Jones and all of the other great products that The Critical Thinking Company has to offer.

Other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed other products from The Critical Thinking Company and you can find what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a free download (downloads are not available for purchase) of Inference Jones - Beginning to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

1 comment:

  1. this sounds awesome. I think I might try the Level one with Ben!