An OBSERVATION is something you detect using one or more of your 5 senses. OBSERVATIONS give us information about the world around us.
Every day we observe the world around us and filter out details that we don't consider important while focusing on what we believe is important. What we pay attention to is guided by our inferences about what we observe. We often do this without being conscious that we are doing it. We base our inferences on many things, including context, our previous experiences and what we already know. These inferences help us make predictions about what we expect will happen next.
Does that sound complicated? That is just one of the many things that help us understand when we read. When you think about it, we use these three skills every day, both as adults and children. Imagine a child who observes a swingset outside. The child wants to play on the swings, but they observe that there is a door between them and the swing. The child infers that he must open the door to go outside to the swingset. He predicts that he can turn the doorknob (based on what he has already experienced) to open the door. That process took only seconds in real time, but required a lot of things to happen inside the brain of the child. Now imagine that the door was locked. The child must then go through another complicated process to deal with the flawed previous inference.
Now imagine a child reading a picture book. As the child observes what is happening in the pictures he is making inferences about what is happening and can then make predictions about what will happen next. Because these things often happen very quickly, we are often not aware of them, or, even if we are, we do not stop to break down the steps required to make predictions. When reading, being able to understand inferences and make predictions is key to understanding text. You can help your child develop these skills every day.
Ways for parents to help build children's inferencing skills
1. Talk to our children about your thought processes. Tell them how you arrive at an understanding of what you observe.
2. Play games like
4. When reading with your child ask them what is happening in a picture. Have them tell you what they see (observe) and what they think is going on (infer). Then ask them what they think will happen next (predict).
In addition to teaching your child to look deeply and seek to understand what they see, these skills will help them become strong readers and writers.
Mrs Emilsson's favorite author, Mo Willems, has written and illustrated many books that are not only entertaining to read, but also are a way to help students learn the three skills. Mo's books have simple text and illustrations. They feature animals like Pigeon and Knufflebunny and are appealing to very young children through adults. It is easy to use these books to have children make inferences, since it is easy to predict that a pigeon driving a bus is probably a bad idea.
Mo Willem's books are available in our Learning Commons, at public libraries and you can find many read online. If you click on the image of the book cover you will visit one of the webpages that shares many of his books.
All Calgary Board of Education students have received a FREE library card. We are lucky to have one very close to us - Village Square Library.
During the upcoming spring break, why not visit the Calgary Public Library with your children?
Updates from the Office
Remember to check out our school website - http://schools.cbe.ab.ca/b347