Inferential comprehension

This strategy is useful at all stages of literacy learning.

It is important for students to talk out the meaning of written texts because spoken language and written language are different in their structure (grammar and syntax) and the words used (vocabulary and semantics). By thinking aloud about the meaning of texts students get the opportunity to express the written text meanings in every day spoken language which is easier for them to understand.

Teachers should model how to think aloud about the meaning of texts while reading, for example, 'I wonder why/how/where ...' Follow this wondering with statements such as 'It could be … because … What do you think?' This opens up the discussion for students to take risks and suggest their own ideas. Encourage students to justify their ideas by asking, 'What part of the text makes you think that?'

The following strategies should be used to support students to complete tasks that have meaningful purposes rather than as stand-alone activities:

  • understanding similar meanings of different words and note different meanings for the same word (for example, ‘deadly‘ has a different meaning in Aboriginal English and standard Australian English)
  • creating a picture from text to make meaning
  • transposing what is seen in visual literacy and multimodal texts into words.

Developing students‘ range in oral language can assist their reading comprehension skills and their ability to code switch between dialects such as Aboriginal English and standard Australian English. Oral language development is best encouraged through the following sequence of strategies.

  • Kinaesthetic – act out meanings physically or with puppets
  • Visual – have activities to talk about meanings in pictures
  • Auditory – listening comprehension activities
  • Print-based – reading and writing activities.

As you talk about words, create word walls and where possible include a picture representing the word.

Activity 1: Creating a picture from text

  • Draw a character or scene: Teacher reads a descriptive passage from a text, for example, The Iron Man twice. The first time students just listen and imagine the image. The second reading students have a blank piece of paper in front of them and create the image depicted in the passage. Compare with a peer and see if the image is similar. Discuss as a class the features that were prominent in all drawings and why?
  • Barrier game: students sitting back to back are given an image (use a contextually appropriate Aboriginal or Indigenous image, for example bush tucker, artworks, famous people) and then the student with the picture uses descriptive language to describe it to their buddy who can recreate by drawing or, if appropriate, building it with Lego blocks.

Activity 2: Transpose what students see in visual literacy and multimodal texts into words

  • Watch Tiddalik the frog and discuss the meaning and creator‘s intentions in the Dreaming story.
  • Create an artwork out of paint or other materials to represent the story of Tiddalik and then create a sentence underneath the artwork representing the main idea in the story or picture.

Activity 3: Using the 8 ways of learning for Aboriginal students

Consider how you can include any of the following 8 Ways of Learning for Aboriginal students in your teaching strategies.

  • Story sharing: approaching learning through narrative.
  • Learning maps: explicitly mapping/visualising processes.
  • Non-verbal: applying intrapersonal and kinaesthetic skills to thinking and learning.
  • Symbols and images: using images and metaphors to understand concepts and content.
  • Land links: place–based learning, linking content to local land and place.
  • Non-linear: producing innovations and understanding by thinking laterally or combining systems.
  • Deconstruct/reconstruct: modelling and scaffolding, working from wholes to parts (watch then do).
  • Community links: centring local viewpoints, applying learning for community benefit.

These 8 ways can be considered more simply as:

  • tell a story
  • make a plan
  • think and do
  • draw it
  • take it outside
  • try a new way
  • watch first, then do
  • share it with others.


Australian curriculum

ACELY1650: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating: Use comprehension strategies to understand and discuss texts listened to, viewed or read independently.

NSW syllabus

ENe-4A: Interpret meaning by responding to an inferential question.

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