Product Review: Learning Strategies Curriculum – The Inference Strategy

OVERVIEW:

The Inference Strategy from Edge Enterprises is a set of short lessons and texts that are intended to teach students to identify question types (fact question, big picture question, prediction question, and clarifying question) and use what they know about those types of questions to find evidence in text and answer the question. The program includes an instructor’s manual with blackline masters and a student workbook which includes the texts and matching questions.

The program is a direct teaching method and begins with a pre-test. Students read a text and answer questions similar to the ones they will be learning about in the program. Students then begin the direct taught lessons starting with learning about making inferences, types of questions, and learning steps to the process. It is a mastery program in which students keep track of their scores throughout the program and this will be the basis on which they move from one lesson to the next. They must achieve 80% to achieve mastery and move on to the next lesson.

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MY EXPERIENCE:

I initially implemented this program in a one-on-one tutoring scenario, which isn’t necessarily the way the program was intended to be implemented. While I don’t think it was detrimental to our work, I ended up leaving out some of the steps based on what I knew about this student’s background knowledge.

I intend to implement this program with my small group pull outs and then connect the strategies for use on Newsela articles and quizzes. I will also plan to make the anchor charts with the students as opposed to making copies from the instructor’s manual. This was a suggestion in the training and I think it’s a great idea.

PROS:

1. The program is simple, direct, and efficient. It’s something that could be incorporated into a whole classroom easily with lessons taking 10-15 minutes once the routine is in place.

2. Because students are scoring themselves and tracking a pre- and post-test, there is assessment data related to comprehension. My school doesn’t have a lot of this to go on so I think this will be helpful in problem solving meetings and determining progress and growth.

3. The stories are (relatively) interesting and short. I think this is a benefit for students who may get overwhelmed by the longer articles and texts we read in class.

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Example student workbook page

4. They have a lot of chances to do well. Each story has five questions, but there are 15 possible points: 1 point each for identifying the question type correctly, 1 point each for answering the question correctly, and 1 point each for finding evidence to back up the answer to the question.

5. It’s easily adaptable. The program is intended to teach a strategy that students can use in a variety of situations, which I think is great, and even though the program doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room for creativity, you can use the program with other articles and texts which would allow you to be creative and allow the students to apply their knowledge in new situations. This gives you immediate feedback on whether the strategies are making root.

6. The program is simple. As I was going through and learning about it, I was thinking about different ways to add on and make the program more effective, such as having the students develop their own questions for the texts we read, have the students create their own anchor charts to use while their working so that they have something personal, and adding writing prompts to the stories using the question types and discussing how you can write a response to the question.

7. It’s inexpensive. The instructor’s manual is $15 and the Student Workbook is $6.

CONS:

1. The stories are short. I know I said that was a pro and I think it is for certain situations, but unfortunately, most of what the students read otherwise will be longer than these stories, so it’s not preparing them to go and search for evidence in a longer, more complicated text.

2. I don’t always agree with the evidence they suggest is “correct” in the answer key. I think when I’m working with students in the small group it will be easy to talk to them and get their reasoning for choosing what they did. I think there are ways to slide on this.

3. I don’t always agree with the answer choice or options. The text and questions were written by the same person, which I think can lead to a situation of being so involved in the process that it’s hard to step back and think about how other people might read or interpret a question. Again, because I will be working with a small group, I think we can work together to talk about the answers, discuss the validity of the “correct” answer and decide for ourselves how we handle it, which is a wonderful teaching moment in itself.

4. The instructor’s manual isn’t pretty. I don’t mean that in a silly way. I’m a visual person and I need to see space, organization, color, and differentiation in a dense text to make sense of it. This manual is LACKING on that front. On the positive side that means its inexpensive to purchase, but I find myself spending time figuring out the best approach to read and use the manual when I’d rather spend that time on something more valuable.

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Example page from instructor's manual

OVERALL REVIEW:

This is definitely a program I will be incorporating into my work with students. I think it will benefit them and if it’s not clearly making a huge impact, the school will not have spent much time or money on the program to make its use a bust.

GO FOR IT!

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