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Verbal inference strategies are strategies for getting the meaning of a text from the words of the text. This process is not necessarily simple or mechanical, though it tends by its very nature to be invisible when it goes well. Language can be ambiguous, vague, or confusing in a variety of ways, and key information may not be stated explicitly.

Strategies for verbal inference include strategies for inferring what words must mean in context, strategies for considering alternative interpretations and ambiguities and choosing the most likely intended meaning, and strategies for inferring the intended meaning where a text may be vague, confusing, or unclear. They require above all else an ability to hold the actual wording clearly in mind and to distinguish it from the intended meaning, so as to be able to determine how well the actual words convey the intended meaning. The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 30.

This class of strategies and the associated skills corresponds to Reading Standard 4 from the Common Core State Standards.

Literature Note - Verbal Inference

Development Table 30. Hypothesized Development of Verbal Inference Skills

(oral to sentence)
Can understand the literal meaning of words or sentences.
Can apply repetition (rehearsing or rereading) strategies to reinforce comprehension.
Having heard or read a text, can repeat what it says.
(sentence to paragraph)
Can draw direct, logical inferences from a statement.
Can apply elaboration strategies to reinforce comprehension by making the implications of a statement explicit.
Can explain at least some of the logical implications of the ideas in a text.
(paragraph to text)
Can recognize logically necessary connections between words and statements.
Can apply linking strategies to reinforce comprehension by making the connections between the parts of a text explicit.
Can elaborate on the ideas in a text by explaining their logical implications in depth.
(text to context)
Can recognize when elements of a text are vague or ambiguous.
Can apply disambiguating strategies to reinforce comprehension by proposing clarifying interpretations.
Can clarify the ideas in a text by explaining them in precise, unambiguous terms.
(text and context to discourse)
Can recognize whether statements in one text are consistent with or contradict the information provided by another.
Can apply confirmation strategies to reinforce comprehension by connecting information contained in one text by linking it to information logically connected to it in another.
Can analyze the explicit content in a text by explaining what it says that is not contained in or inconsistent with other text(s) dealing with the same subject matter.

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